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Monday, October 23, 2006

Betty Montgomery: No friend of consumers

Posted By on Mon, Oct 23, 2006 at 3:11 PM

The Republican candidate for attorney general, Betty Montgomery, claims that she ran an outstanding consumer protection section when she previously held the office. Large corporate interests probably thought so, but the public had little reason to. Montgomery's lack of concern for consumers was shown when a Cleveland law firm filed a class-action lawsuit accusing many hospitals of violating the Consumer Sales Practices Act. The firm wanted to stop them from charging fees ranging from 95 cents to $23 a page for copies of medical records. As attorney general, Montgomery had the primary responsibility for enforcing the law, but she declined to enter the lawsuit and, in effect, sided with the hospitals. She took that position even though the federal government, after extensive hearings, had determined that 7 cents a page was fair compensation when hospitals provide copies of medical records to peer review organizations. Montgomery also was unmoved by reports that the fees were so high that some persons could not afford access to their medical records. She knew they likely needed the records to enforce their rights in civil actions, workers' compensation claims, Social Security determinations or other legal proceedings. The hospitals eventually settled the case by agreeing to lower their fees substantially. They also agreed to support efforts to change the law to limit the fees, which ultimately happened. But Montgomery declined to back those efforts too. If Montgomery had her way, hospitals would still be charging consumers outrageous fees for medical records. To have an attorney general who is on the side of the public, voters should reject Montgomery's attempt to regain the office and instead support Democrat Marc Dann. Joseph C. Sommer Columbus

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