Monday, October 17, 2011

Targeting Photocopy Services for Regulation Requires A Balanced Approach

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.
workers compensation


  1. I have been telling my clients for years that we need a Photocopy Schedule. The DWC needs to create a Fee Schedule for Safe Harbor payment in absence of objection, and a process to disallow the unreasonable services without Trial time. I just called the largest ML Photocopy provider from MSC on a lien where my Carrier had TIMELY paid 1,000 of 1,030 in charges. The Provider filed a Lien over $30 and added $20 of P&I. They ultimately dismissed the Lien, but this provider was the only lien of record on a Clean file. That lien never should have been filed.

    Sadly, they make it more cost-effective for Defendant to settle the whole lien for 50% at a later PTC than pay timely, because the ML provider will allege a balance over anything that is not 100% reimbursement. If timely payment of reasonable scheduled charges resulted in no Hearing, the Photocopy service would have better cash-flow,and Carriers would ultimately save money on 70% of the lien files.

    Photocopying is about as close to a Commmodity as we can get in WC. Someone scans records, and mails hard copies or CDs. After the initial arguments of service values, it would be dead-simple to pay the scheduled amounts in absence of legal objection. Any Photocopy Service who copies records without an ADJ number deserves to have the entire lien disallowed, because Discovery cannot be compelled without Jurisdiction.

    We could also significantly streamline the process by limiting Defense exposure to a short list of services including: SDT Prep, Service and an all-inclusive rate of 20-30 cents pp to include scanning and processing. Nothing more than 10 cents can be justified for copies, because we can do it by hand at a drug store for that; the ML providers merely print off an E-File. All the Pagination, CDs, and Record Summaries should either be PRE-AUTHORIZED, or chargeable to the Requestor if he finds the service beneficial.

    Some of the Photocopy Services, in my opinion, are choking the Golden Goose. By abusing the lack of billing schedules, padding the misc fees, and pursuing minimal balances, they are clogging the system. It now appears that the spotlight will soon swing to them, and the result may shake out many of the fringe providers. I hope it brings more efficiency to all parties, and they start adapting to the Writing on the Wall.

  2. Good observations. There are always the 10% "bad actors" whose self interest bring about regulation on the other good acting 90%.