Ministries and health funds tussle over charges for copying medical files

The proposed regulations stipulate that costs will apply only to requests made by the patient or a proxy who is a relative or guardian.

Ashdod Hospital  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ashdod Hospital
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Finance Ministry and the public health funds oppose the Health Ministry’s initiative to cut patients’ costs of photocopying a medical file to NIS 10 from the current NIS 21 to NIS 111 (depending on the type of records). Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee chairman MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) said on Wednesday, “This is robbery that causes death.”
The Treasury and health fund representatives said they oppose regulations submitted to the committee by the Health Ministry. The proposed regulations stipulate that costs will apply only to requests made by the patient or a proxy who is a relative or guardian, and not to requests from an external body such as an insurance company.
“Every patient has the right to receive information from his medical records for any purpose,” said attorney Tal Nishri of the Health Ministry Legal Department. “We receive a lot of complaints from patients on excessive charges by hospitals and health funds for copies of medical records.”
Ro’i Reicher, health liaison at the Finance Ministry Budget Department, said the price cuts would cause a loss of NIS 35 million a year to the insurers. “We expect an increase in demand for copies of records due to the reduction,” he added. Attorney Yinon Gotlik of the Treasury’s legal bureau added, “These regulations have a budgetary cost, and the law requires covering the expense.”
This infuriated Alalouf, who retorted, “I will not allow harm to the ordinary citizen who wants to realize his basic rights. The records save lives. Citizens must be aware of their medical conditions.”
Avishai Feldman, the legal adviser to the Association for Patients’ Rights, said, “The cost of producing a computerized file does not have to be more than a few agorot for printing. The cost of the bureaucracy should not be imposed on the patients.”
Harel Belinda, director of the umbrella organization of health funds, said insurers “do not have a magic box of money. Either the Finance Ministry will cover our expected losses or the service given to the patient will be harmed.”
Rakefet Levy, head of Clalit Health Services’ finance branch, said, “Often, we have received requests for information going back decades on every encounter between doctors and patients. It’s necessary to extract material from the archive and edit it.”  She noted that Clalit handles about 102,000 such requests per year.
MK Alalouf announced that the committee would allow a period of up to three months for dialogue among the parties, and that the committee would then reconvene. "The purpose is to approve the regulations in favor of the patient. The [bureaucratic] systems must find solutions among themselves.”