Many individuals are complaining that their health care providers refuse to provide them with their medical records. The most important thing you can do is know your rights and make all requests in writing certified mail return receipt requested.

Montana Law provides that upon receipt of a written request from a patient to examine or copy all or part of the patient’s recorded health care information, a health care provider, as promptly as required under the circumstances but no later than 10 days after receiving the request shall:

a. Make the information available without charge during business hours.
b. Inform the patient the information does not exist or cannot be found.
c. Inform the patient that the records are maintained by a third party and where they may be obtained.
d. If there is an unusual delay, provide a clear written explanation of the reason for delay, under which circumstances the health care provider would have 21 days.

Unfortunately, most health care providers will charge for records. Montana Law allows a reasonable fee defined as $15 to search for the file and $0.50 per page copied. So you will likely have to pay for the records.

Concerning situations where a heath care provider refuses to provide the records they must justify the refusal with a clear written explanation. These circumstances include, serious harm to the patient if the records are disclosed or the records contain substantial information of confidential information concerning others.

Many people sign standard releases when they see a physician that allows the provider to disclose your records for any reason. Ask your provider if you have the option of refusing the release, except if requested by another health care provided necessary for your own treatment. Don’t sign blanket releases under any circumstances.

In Montana the legislature has recognized the widespread practice of compiling and selling health care information to insurance companies, marking companies, companies that provide background checks and any other entity who may find your personal health care information useful. In the Legislative Findings the Montana Legislature has recognized wrongful “exchange of health care information from automated data banks” across State lines. Privacy of medical records has also been determined a Montana constitutional right under the Montana Constitution’s Right to Privacy provisions.

If your rights are being violated, you should lodge a Complaint with the Montana Attorney General who can investigate, order release of records and impose fines. You may also file a complaint with the District Court where you live. The Court may order disclosure to you, enjoin wrongful health care dissemination, and award damages to you up to $5,000.00.

In conclusion, when you seek medical treatment ask what the health care provider’s policy is on access to medical records and release of your medical information. Be persistent and demand explanations in writing. This will usually result in access to your medical records. The records are owned by you. Assert your rights.