SESSION WRAP 2017: New Legislation to Enforce Medical Records Access Rules

Catherine (Kate) Callery and Louise Tarantino July 31, 2017

A.7842 (Gottfried)/S.6078 (Valesky) relates to New Yorker’s access to medical records while applying for government benefits or programs and will prohibit providers and facilities from charging fees for access to or copies of records.  This legislation will ensure free access to medical records for those applying for Social security and Medicaid benefits, as well as some veteran’s benefits.


Public health law §§ 17, 18, as amended by chapter 576 of the laws of 1998, and mental hygiene law § 33.16, as amended by chapter 165 of the laws of 1991 and as renumbered by chapter 233 of the laws of 1991,already prohibit charging for access to medical records for those who cannot pay.  However, a complicated process for establishing eligibility and the outsourcing of copying services means that eligible low income New Yorkers are often denied free access to their own medical records in contravention of the law.

Detailed Analysis

Current law states “The facility may impose a reasonable charge for all inspections and copies, not exceeding the costs incurred by such provider, not exceeding seventy five cents per page.”  Moreover, “A qualified person shall not be denied access to the clinical record solely because of inability to pay.”  Current law does provide free access; however, in practice, the fee waiver is routinely ignored and is poorly enforced.

Individuals applying for Social Security disability benefits (including Supplemental Security Income or SSI) need medical records to document their claims.  Claimants often cannot afford to pay the statutory rate of seventy five cents per page for these records.  Thus, a claimant’s ability to access disability benefits, especially federal disability benefits, is undermined.

Instead, A.7842 (Gottfried)/S.6078 (Valesky) would amend sections of the public health and mental hygiene laws, warranting “No charge may be imposed for providing, releasing, or delivering medical records or copies of medical records where requested for the purpose of supporting an applicant, claim or appeal for any government benefit or program, provided that, where a provider maintains medical records in electronic form, it shall provide the copy in either electronic or paper form, as required by the government benefit or program, or at the patient’s request.”

Fiscal Impact

By guaranteeing access for all who apply for government benefits or programs, this legislation eliminates the need for complicated, ambiguous or time-consuming methods of determining a patient’s indigence.  This saves administrative time, effort and resources for providers, as well as patients and their advocates.

Without access to their medical records, many low income disabled New Yorkers will need to prove their Social Security disability claims without them, making otherwise eligible claimants rely on public benefits, which places unnecessary financial pressure on local counties and New York State. This bill will ensure all eligible claimants receive federal benefits to which they are entitled, alleviating financial and administrative burdens on local counties and the state.

Lastly, in the vast majority of cases, including Social Security claims, patients need access to electronic versions of their medical records.  Therefore, providing records to patients in electronic form is a common-sense approach towards providing patients with record requests, as doing so incurs no printing cost on providers.

Current Status of A.7842 (Gottfried)/S.6078 (Valesky)

A.7842 (Gottfried)/S.6078 (Valesky) successfully passed both houses of the New York State Legislature, and will soon be brought before the Governor, who can pass, veto, or fail to act on the legislation.

What You Can Do

If you are interested in being receiving a notification from Empire Justice Center with more details on when the bill is sent to the Governor, sign up through our website for action alerts and send an email with the subject line “medical records bill” to Eòghann Renfroe at erenfroe(at)empirejustice(dot)org.