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John Cottam, MD Doctor violates HIPAA Law Tampa, Florida
18th of Dec, 2011 by User958640
I went to Dr John Cottam, a dermatologist, on 3/17/11 because of a rash on my neck. He did a skin swab on my neck that he said would be tested by Quest labs. Before I left the office I asked how much I owed and the nurse said "Nothing." I asked for my lab results 2 weeks later and was told by the Dr's. office it wasn't back yet. I called again in April and was told to come in on 4/7/11 to get my lab results. I brought a HIPAA compliant request form for release of my medical records, signed and dated it and handed it to the nurse at Dr. Cottam's office. She gave me a couple papers and when I got home I noticed the print was so light I couldn't read it. She had not given me any lab reports. She said they still didn't have them. On May 27, 2011 Dr Cottam sent me a bill for $59 for the one office visit on 3/17/11. It said he would charge a $10 late fee if I didn't pay the bill within 20 days. I sent Dr Cottam a letter stating I had asked how much I need to pay on 3/17/11 and his nurse had told me nothing. I said I did not ask him to extend me "credit" and therefore I wouldn't pay him any late fees. I reminded him that I was still waiting for my lab results and that when he sent me my lab results I would pay the bill. I sent 2 HIPAA request forms to Dr Cottam. I requested my lab reports on 4/7/11, 6/5/11, 7/1/11 and 7/5/11. I gave this doctor a self addressed stamped envelope to mail my lab reports in. I mailed a complaint to the Dept of Health and Human Services/Office for Civil Rights, and got 2 letters back in August and September saying they are looking into whether they can help me. I'm pretty sure they are not going to help me get my lab reports which is my right under HIPAA law. I complained to "Quality Improvement Programs," an agency that Medicare transferred me to. This agency played phone tag for several months, said they called the doctor and the doctor's nurse promised they would mail my lab results to me in October 2011. They put this in writing. The doctor's office never sent the lab reports. I contacted a legal aid clinic and after waiting two hours, with an appointment, I was told they didn't have the funds to assist me in getting my lab reports from this doctor. The legal aid lawyers twisted my request for my lab reports into a "billing dispute." It is NOT a billing dispute. I was ready and willing to pay at the time of the appointment, and my money was refused. I believe this doctor wanted to bill me later in order to charge me extra in "late fees." Medicare paid for my lab tests. The doctor is violating my HIPAA right to my own lab reports. Since the rash was on my neck, if it was or is contagious, it could have potentially harmed other people who used the same gym equipment, chairs, even washing machines as me. This doctor's refusal to give me my own lab reports could have hurt a lot of innocent people if I was carrying something contagious like MRSA. And I'll never really know. It took a long time, but I made the rash go away with my own initiatives and self care. Still, it is possible to be a "carrier" of some infectious agents. Another thing I'll never know. HIPAA law states that doctors can't withhold a patients medical records because of a dispute over the bill. I know that Florida's state licensing agency for licensing doctors and other health care professionals is not going to do a damn thing about this. I've heard from too many other people in this state who have been harmed or ripped off by doctors, dentists, and nursing homes. I'm posting this as a warning to all health care "customers." Know what you're getting into. Last but not least, I requested my lab report directly from Quest, the lab that processed the test and they told me my state's laws allow them to release the lab reports ONLY to the doctor. I don't see what good state regulations, federal regulations or "Patient Protection" laws do if unethical doctors can still run over our so called rights and get away with it.

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