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Priority of WA State Laws: RCW versus WAC

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Revised Code of Washington RCW 70.02.030(2) and RCW 70.02.010(15) explicitly states that a provider can charge for copying and mailing medical records and defines how much can be charged.
WA Health Care Authority (HCA) has Washington Administrative Code, WAC 182-502-0160, explicitly does not allow any such fees to be charged.
WA Dept of Health has WAC 246-08-400, also defines allowable fees for providers copying and mailing medical records.

Which of the statue regulations supersede the other the RCW or the WAC?
Can an insurance company choose which regulation to comply with and which they do not need to comply with?

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To further followup on this, we are a providers office and are governed by the Dept of Health, which has a set of WAC that are consistent with the RCW.


Are you implying that Medicaid patients are a "special class" of individuals that are exempt from the laws identified in the Revised Code of Washington? 


Does the HCA WAC 182-502-0160 create a form of discrimination against all none Medicaid patients who are governed by the RCW and by a practice's office policies, which the HCA exempts their "special class" from abiding?

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The short answer is that when a statute truly conflicts with an agency regulation, the statute (RCW) would control over the administrative rule (WAC). But that simple statement is not the end it with something like this.


RCW § 070.02.030 is a general statute that addresses all health care providers and all requests for disclosures by the patient. It is permissive in that allows the provider to charge copy fees but does not require the provider to charge for it. 


WAC § 182-502-0160 is a much more narrowly targeted rule — it only applies to transfers of the patient’s health information from a medicaid provider to another provider. It does not allow for charging the patient for copies in that particular circumstance. This regulation is promulgated pursuant to the agency’s authority in RCW § 74.08.090. Those regulations are valid to the extent not inconsistent with some other statute. 


Typically a court would first look to interpret the rules so that neither one of the is rendered invalid, if possible. That could easily be done here by applying the rule of construction that says the more specific provision controls over the more general one when they both might apply. Here, that would mean that the medicaid provider would not be permitted to charge fees for disclosing health information of a patient to another provider, but outside of that situation health care providers may charge fees for making disclosures at the patient’s request. 


But whether that’s how the Washington state courts would decide it if the issue were presented to them, I don’t know. 

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