Adding To This Patient’s Pain — A $350 Bill For Paperwork

Saul Ramos, debilitated by Alzheimer’s, could no longer work as a mason. Money was getting tight and he and his family were counting on him qualifying for Social Security disability benefits.

So when a Social Security judge raised questions about whether the 62-year-old Honolulu native had experienced symptoms as far back as 2015, his lawyer, Danielle Beaver, came up with a plan.

She typed up a two-question form for him to take to his doctor.

Had Ramos been experiencing symptoms in late 2015? The form left a small space for an explanation. And would there be a medical explanation for Ramos’ denying he was having cognitive problems?

Ramos’ doctor at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii routed the request through the legal department, which responded that the doctor could do the report. But it would take an hour of the doctor’s time.

The cost: $350.

Beaver, one of the few Hawaii lawyers who focuses on Social Security disability,  says that Kaiser is the only provider that charges more than a nominal fee for a doctor to fill out such forms — a heavy burden for clients who are struggling with illness and drastically reduced income, some of whom may be homeless or close to it.

Several other providers contacted by Civil Beat confirmed that they would not charge for answering questions for a disability applicant.

Kaiser, however, says it is following industry standards in covering the costs of doctors’ time, and that Beaver is the only attorney who refuses to honor its process of routing requests through its legal department.

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