How Do I Request My Medical Records and Bills?
You were involved in a car, bike, or pedestrian accident in Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, or Maryland. The crash was not your fault and you’ve started a claim with the other driver’s insurance. So far, so good. But to send a demand package to the insurance company, you’re going to need to get copies of your medical records and bills.
Getting Your Medical Records and Bills in a Nutshell
- Contact your doctor’s office and ask how to get a copy of your medical records.
- Usually you must send a written request for your medical records to each of your medical providers.
- Many doctor’s offices and hospitals have a separate billing office, so you will send a separate written request for an itemized billing statement.
Should I Authorize the Insurance Company to Request My Medical Records Directly?
“But wait,” you say, “the insurance company is offering to get my medical records for me. Should I let them do that?”
That depends on whether you want the insurance company to know about every health issue you’ve ever sought treatment for.
Once you give the insurance company permission to get your medical records, they will request any of your medical records they possibly can. They will then try to use all of your health issues against you to pay you less for your injuries.
For example, let’s say in the course of moving a couch 5 years ago, you pulled a muscle in your back. Let’s say you happened to visit your primary care physician 2 days later for your annual check-up. You mention to your doctor that your back has been hurting you for the last couple of days since you moved the couch. Your symptoms clear up in a week and you are back to your normal self.
Then, you were in a serious car crash 2 weeks ago and you hurt your back. You feel crippled. You have pains shooting up and down your back and have serious difficulty turning your trunk or bending over. It seems like your symptoms are getting worse as time goes on.
Now, is your temporary back pain 5 years ago related to your pain and discomfort resulting from the car crash two weeks ago? Of course not. No reasonable person would say the two are related.
But if you give the insurance company free access to all your medical records and they see that record from your primary care physician 5 years ago, you will be told you have a “history of back problems.” And there is a good chance the insurance adjuster will tell you your injury claim is worth less because you had pre-existing back problems.
So is it a good idea to let the insurance company request your records for you? Generally no. You are better off getting your own medical records and bills yourself.
What Exactly are Medical Records?
Any time you visit your doctor or go to a hospital, various pieces of information are collected. The doctor takes notes, the nurse takes your vital signs, lab tests are ordered and results are received, etc. This information is your medical record.
What about the papers I’m handed when I leave the hospital? Is this a copy of my medical records?
No. Often when you leave the emergency room you are handed some discharge instructions. When you leave the doctor’s office, you may be handed a prescription, a follow-up reminder, or maybe a doctor’s note releasing you from work or school. None of these are medical records. Medical records describe your symptoms, diagnosis, or recommended treatment.
You’ve probably never actually seen your medical records before. Medical records are not normally provided to you, the patient.
So How Do I Get a Copy of My Medical Records?
To get a copy of your medical records, you’ll need to specifically request them from the doctor’s office or hospital.
The best way to get started is to call your doctor’s office or the hospital where you received treatment. Ask for the medical records person or department. Tell the person you are a patient and are seeking a copy of your medical record. They’ll tell you the best way to request them. Typically, you’ll need to submit a written request or make an in-person request.
If you are asked to make a written request for your medical records, be sure your request includes the following information:
After you send your written request, you’ll want to follow up in a few weeks if you haven’t received a response.