Division of Workers' Compensation Administrative Director Rosa Moran told attendees of the Association of Workers' Compensation Professionals 13th annual Workers' Compensation Conference on Friday that one of nine committees she has formed will be looking at regulating photocopy services.
"I'm going to start with something small, because we've got to get our house in order," she said. "I randomly picked something that kind of annoys me. I picked copy services."
The copy services that Moran is targeting provide services such as photocopying medical records and legal documents and delivering them to case participants.
According to the WorkCompCentral story, the committee will first identify what a copy service should do and then determine an appropriate charge.
"They do everything but shine your shoes nowadays," Moran said. "What is the product people are willing to pay for? Do you want to pay for the annotated index? Do you want to pay for the service they do for (Uninsured Employers Fund) cases?"
There are two sides to the photocopy coin, of course.
One aspect of the business involves procuring records at the request of the insurance/employer/defense community. Those are direct, fee for service, businesses where the "customer" usually has a pre-existing contract for services and pretty much knows what it is going to pay for the service or product up front.
The aspect I suspect that Moran has her eyes on involves fulfilling requests for applicant attorneys, and these services are performed on a lien basis. The applicant attorney will take a case, get a medical history and then have the records procured to ensure either that there aren't any time bombs or booby traps in the medical history or to find evidence to support the case.
Regardless, the fees charged for procuring records for applicant attorneys are generally many times higher than the fees charged for getting the same records for defense customers.
The two sides of the service are not apples for apples because the expenses involved in getting paid after fulfilling applicant attorney record requests are significantly higher than when performing work directly for the defense.
Applicant attorney photocopy services generally wait for well over a year before they can collect on their receivable, many times for several years. They are required to file liens to protect their payment interests. Many times carriers dispute the right to reimbursement or negotiate down the fee, requiring copy services to retain representation to make appearances at hearings.
Yet there needs to remain an independent record procurement availability to the applicant bar because otherwise the control over critical information would become lopsided providing the defense with an unfair advantage in the least, or worse, the ability to completely hide potentially damaging evidence.
Any regulation on the fees that photocopy services charge for records sought by applicant attorneys needs to also provide for more prompt and secure payment for those services.
My suspicion is that the photocopy interests would not have an objection to a fee schedule if regulations also ensured that they would be paid timely, at the specified rate, without objection, and without further need for receivables enforcement.