That Time I Had to Pay $500 for My Medical Records


One morning I woke up to a phone call advising me that I owed $500 to a private service holding my medical records ransom.

But wait a second, I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking that can’t be right. Don’t you have private health insurance? Why, yes, yes I do. Don’t you have OHIP up there in Ontario, Canada? Free health care because of your very high taxes? Yes, yes and yes, but the Ontario health insurance plan does not cover this nasty little area of free enterprise.  And like America, we also need to sometimes pay to have a copy of our medical records.

Back the truck up a moment and let me explain just a bit by way of backstory.

medical records

Image: Doug Waldron via Flickr

This summer we lost our family doctor suddenly and without any warning. He went on sick leave in May and the practice closed officially September 6th. That day my daughter had an appointment with one of her specialists, and I decided to pop into our general physician’s office and see what was happening. A notice informed me that he was closing his practice and our medical records would be transferred to a service called RSRS. There were no people in the office but there was a 1-800 number posted.

My daughters have special needs and I have a lengthy medical history of Crohn’s disease. My husband is a healthy guy. We have medications and prescriptions to juggle and specialists to coordinate.  We cannot ever be left without a family doctor, who acts as a gatekeeper sometimes for other services we need. We also cannot be left without our prescriptions.

I have no idea what happened to our doctor. He was a young healthy man, who did marathons often and always was tanned. He travelled a lot and was jovial. He was a truly kind man who was nearly moved to tears when I told him of my mother’s dementia diagnosis two years ago. I saw him probably every two months for maintenance. I don’t fault him for leaving. People get sick, both mentally and physically. Doctors are not immune to life.

I set my engine in high gear and started the search for a new family doctor. We’ve applied for several, but we still haven’t been accepted by any. In a city with a medical school, that astonishes me. But this -- $500 to get our family medical records just to pass them on to the new doctor -- chafed in more ways than one.

So what did I do about it? I checked with OHIP and it’s true they don’t govern this area. I told the service I’d have to pick a family member to exclude. A medical records Sophie’s choice. But who? I had settled on leaving my husband’s records in limbo. It was $279 for mine alone. That’s when they started whittling away at the price slowly. Bartering.

“Oh we don’t want to see anyone excluded,” said the man on the phone.

And I did? But I also didn’t want to wake up owing $500 for a service that should not be a service in a space where health care is supposedly regulated and free. In the end we settled on $320 for everyone's medical records. I texted my husband infuriated. I tweeted angrily, and I mentioned it on Facebook. Then, I wrote this post.

When I moved to this city from Kitchener, Ontario 13 years ago, I paid $75 for photocopies of my records. At that time $75 was a hardship, but I managed. But $500 to sell me my medical records back? Or $320. My Mom used to have an expression for that – “That’s highway robbery.”

Have you ever had to pay for your medical records? What’s the most you paid?

Paula Schuck is a mom of two living in Ontario, Canada. She blogs about healthy living, adoption, infertility and parenting special needs children at

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