Legislation would require providers to complete eligibility forms for patients applying for public benefit programs
Sacramento, CA—Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) announced a bill today to make it easier for low-income people to access their medical records in order to apply for public benefits. Assembly Bill 2520 would expand access to free medical records and ensure patients applying for public benefit programs receive completed eligibility forms from health care providers.
“Accessing medical records can be a major barrier to applying for public benefits programs,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “We want people to get the help they need, and this new bill will make that a bit easier.”
Medical records are often used to determine eligibility for public benefit programs, and gaining access to medical records can prove challenging for some low-income patients. While accessing medical records is free for patients applying for some public benefit programs such as Medi-Cal and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), other public programs are not included. Existing law does not clearly prohibit medical providers from charging low-income patients to complete eligibility forms or refusing to complete them all together.
AB 2520 would require health care providers to complete forms without charging patients, if forms are needed to determine eligibility for public benefit programs. It would also expand access to free medical records for enrollees of the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, immigrants who are victims of crime, victims of domestic violence, and beneficiaries of government-funded housing subsidies or tenant-based housing assistance programs.
The bill also clarifies that legal aid advocates can access medical records without cost in order to help clients access public benefit programs. Currently, some health facilities require legal aid attorneys to secure a “power of attorney” to access medical records on behalf of clients, which is an inappropriate and unnecessary designation for legal aid advocates who are simply assisting with a public benefits issue.
The Western Center on Law and Poverty is sponsoring AB 2520.
“This bill would require health providers to complete eligibility forms for public benefits programs so Californians can access the benefits that they are already eligible for,” said Linda Nguy, Policy Advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “When providers do not fill out the forms, patients struggle to pay rent, obtain food, or access health care.”
AB 2520 is expected to be heard in an Assembly policy committee this spring.