Part 2: Basic Patient Rights (FAQ 21 of 65)
Right to Inspect and Copy Your Record
21. How Much Will It Cost?
A covered entity can charge a reasonable, cost-based fee for copying and postage. Any other copying charges -- administrative fees, overhead, labor costs -- are improper. Charges for inspecting a record are improper, even if the covered entity says that it had to make a copy for you to inspect. Charges for a summary or for an explanation are permissible if you ask for a summary or explanation.
Don't let anyone charge you more than is allowed by the HIPAA rule. If you don't think that the fees are proper, complain about it. You have a right to complain to the Secretary of HHS (via the Office of Civil Rights), and that right will be covered later. (See FAQs 46-51.) Remember that state law may establish lower fees than HIPAA allows or may not allow any fees at all. If you need records and can't afford to pay, ask for a waiver of fees. Some covered entities may provide some or all records without charge or at a discount.
Standard copying costs can be as much as $1.00 a page or perhaps more. If you want a hard copy of an x-ray, the fee could be considerably more. Many health care institutions hire outside firms to handle copies. Copying hospital records is a business. Insurance companies and lawyers tend to be frequent requesters of records, and copying charges can be expensive because these requesters don't much care and because there is no competition. The result is that the standard charge per page can be high. Your best strategy may be to narrow your request (see the discussion in FAQ 23 about what records to request) or to obtain an electronic copy of records that are already electronic. Copies of electronic records may be less expensive.