LITTLE ROCK — An attorney for a Russellville woman argued Thursday before the state Supreme Court that a Georgia company has been illegally collecting a sales tax from some Arkansas medical patients who request copies of their medical records.
Attorneys for the company, HealthPort of Alpharetta, Ga., and for state Department of Finance and Administration Director Richard Weiss argued that the tax is appropriate under Arkansas law.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments but did not immediately issue a ruling in Theresa Holbrook’s appeal of a Pope County circuit judge’s ruling dismissing her class-action lawsuit against HealthPort, which maintains records for health-care providers, and Weiss.
Holbrook’s attorney, Jimmy Streett, argued Thursday that the state Access to Medical Records Act allows a health-care provider to charge a patient who requests his or her medical records only for the cost of producing the records.
The law "does not recognize in any way the significance of the fact that a hospital or a nurse or a clinic in this case might use a third party to act as the agent for delivery," Streett said.
He said HealthPort has a business relationship with hospitals that is taxable, but it does not have a business relationship with Holbrook. He compared the service HealthPort offers to the service that FedEx offers and asked the justices how they would view the transaction if they ordered a product that was delivered by FedEx.
"Would it ever cross your mind that you have somehow engaged in a transaction or entered into any sort of financial relationship with FedEx? Of course it wouldn’t," he said.
B.J. Walker, attorney for HealthPort, said the company charges the tax because it has been advised to do so by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
Joel DiPippa, attorney for Weiss, said HealthPort created physical copies of Holbrook’s records, and therefore the state sales tax applied.
"The gross receipts tax is levied on all sales of tangible, personal property completed within this state for valuable consideration," he said.
The state Legislature has created specific exemptions to the sales tax, but there is no exemption for medical records, DiPippa said.
"What the appellant is asking you to do is infer or imply an exemption where the General Assembly has not created one," he said.
The court did not indicate when it would rule.