Are you paying too much for medical records in Kingston, New York?

The federal law known as the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act" (HIPAA) provides that a "covered entity", such as hospitals and doctors, can only charge "reasonable" cost-based fees for providing the medical records to patients.  See, Code of Federal Regulations section 164.524(c).  Fees that are not "cost-based", even if permitted by a state law, are contrary to the HIPAA law and therefore, are preempted by this federal law.

Sections 17 and 18 of New York's Public Health Law provide that medical providers can charge no more than seventy-five cents for paper copies and a reasonable charge for diagnostic images, plus postage.

The federal regulations provide that "reasonable" cost-based charges for copying medical records is $.12 per page (indexed for inflation). Yet doctors and hospitals in New York ignore the federal HIPAA law for cost-based charges, and continue to charge $.75 per page.  If your hospital admission lasted more than 2-3 days, the cost of getting your medical records can exceed $500.  So, what do you do?

How you can avoid paying too much for medical records

First, you should be adamant about saving the expenses of getting your medical records.  Insist that your doctor or hospital follow the federal HIPAA law that only allows a photocopy charge of $.12 per page.  If your doctor or physician refuses, you should point out that HIPAA only permits a photocopy charge of $.12 per page and if they refuse to compy with federal law, you will report them to the Office of Civil Rights.  Now, we're getting somewhere.

Second, if your doctor or hospital refuses to follow HIPAA (they can't do that, by the way), tell them that you want to inspect the original records (known as an "original chart review"), as permitted by section 18 of New York's Public Health Law.  When you inspect the original chart, bring a laser scanner with you and scan the entire charge.  Now, you've got the entire records in an electronic format, which you can share by e-mail with anyone you want at no charge. 

By scanning the original medical records, you just got a complete set of the medical records at no charge. Not too shabby!  The hospital or doctor might not be too happy that you just got a complete set of the medical records for FREE, but who cares?

Another advantage of scanning the original medical records is that you can ensure that you get all of the medical records.  It is common that doctors and hospitals will send you only a portion of the medical records, even though you specifically requested the "entire chart" (this happens to me all the time).  By reviewing the original medical records, you now have a fool-proof way of making sure you have every record in your chart.

Remember, if you have to pay to get a photocopy of your medical records, you don't have to ask for all of your records.  For example, if you had a botched operation, you may only need to get the operative report and the discharge summary.  The other records, such as lab and imaging reports and progress records, may not be important for an evaluation of your case. 

By asking for specific records, you can limit the photocopy expenses to less than $10, for a medical chart that would otherwise cost $500 to photocopy. If you later decide you need the entire medical chart, you can always inspect the original chart (remember the "original chart review").

What you can do if you have questions about getting your medical records

If you have questions about the procedures of getting your medical records, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can send me an e-mail at [email protected] .  You are always welcome to request a FREE copy of my book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, which you can order from the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.  If you send me an e-mail with your name and address, I will be happy to include you on the mailing list for my FREE newsletter for medical consumers, Your Malpractice Insider.