How Much Does It Cost to Get Copies of Your Medical Records?

Your State and Provider May Set Fees for Medical Records

Asian doctor in file room
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You are entitled to see your own medical records at no cost. But are you entitled to actually own a copy of those records? The answer is yes, but rarely for free. In fact, if your medical history is complex, the cost may be fairly significant.

Many patients get upset at the fact that they have to pay for copies of their medical records. They believe they have already paid for the records when the provider was paid for her services. However, this charge is actually intended to cover the cost of someone's time to retrieve the records, make copies, and supply postage if necessary.

What Does It Cost for Medical Records?

Each state has its own laws about how much can be charged, whether for paper or digital records. There may also be special rules related to reproduction of X-rays or other medical imaging. Depending upon your state, your medical practitioner may be allowed to charge:

  • by the page
  • the actual cost of copying and mailing
  • a "reasonable amount" (which will vary)

Not all providers will charge the maximum amount the law in their state allows. Some may provide records for free if you pick them up, or if this is your first request. Just ask the provider's office what they charge for copies of medical records. Depending on how difficult the retrieval will be, and how many pages need to be copied, they may charge you nothing, or they may charge you the maximum. Hospital records follow the same rules and incur the same costs.

In 2016, the Office of Health and Human Services issued specific guidance about providing medical records. If you have concerns, you can check to be sure your provider is following this guidance:

  • practices must tell patients upfront whether they will be charged fees and how much those will be;
  • practices must calculate the actual costs on which they base their copying fees, although they can use average costs rather than calculating the cost for each records request;
  • per page fees can be used only for paper copies or scanned copies of paper documents;
  • if a flat fee is charged for electronic copies of PHI that are maintained electronically, it cannot exceed $6.50 per request;
  • individuals have the right to receive a copy of their PHI in the form and format they request, "if it is readily reproducible that way"; and
  • the HIPAA Privacy Rule overrides state regulations on copying costs in most cases.

I Can't Afford to Pay for Medical Records

If you can't afford to pay for your medical records, you may be able to request a waiver. Speak to the medical records manager that works with your provider or the medical records office in the hospital, at which point the provider will usually give them to you at no cost.

One way to bypass the cost may be to request your records at each of your appointments or visits. Make it a habit of requesting copies as you get ready to leave the provider's office. Since the records have not yet been stored, you may not be charged anything for the copies. This policy will vary by practice and facility.

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