Q&A with Patricia Rogers
Legislature changes fees for obtaining medical records
Q: A recent bill signed by the governor establishes fees that a hospital, physician or other health care provider can charge for providing a patient with copies of medical records. Is this a change from existing law?
A: Yes. House Bill 2188 is an amendment to the current Oklahoma law that sets forth the fees a hospital, physician or “other medical institution” can charge for copies of medical records. Effective Nov. 1, health care providers can charge patients 50 cents a page for paper copies and $5 for a copy of an X-ray, photograph or image, or pathology slide. The new law also establishes fees for producing records in electronic or digital form. If a patient requests a copy of his or her records in electronic form and the health care provider maintains an electronic health record and can deliver records electronically, the health care provider must provide the records in electronic form and may charge 30 cents a page up to a maximum of $200 per request.
Q: Can a health care provider charge a patient for searching, retrieving or preparing the medical records?
A: No. Oklahoma law expressly prohibits a health care provider from charging these fees to a patient. However, a health care provider may charge a patient for the actual cost of mailing the copies (or a computer disk or other digital media). Fees cannot be charged for faxing medical records to patients.
Q: Do these fees apply to attorneys and insurance companies requesting medical records?
A: Yes, but the new law provides that a health care provider may charge a $10 base fee in addition to the fees specified above for any requests from attorneys and insurance companies and in response to subpoenas.
Q: What about requests that are not from patients, attorneys or insurance companies or related to a subpoena?
A: Oklahoma law does not address these types of requests. Health care providers can set their own fees. However, health care providers can only respond to requests to the extent permitted by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and state law.
Q: Does charging patients and others for copies of medical records comply with HIPAA? Does HIPAA allow a health care provider to disclose records electronically?
A: Yes to both. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and its implementing regulations permit a health care provider to impose reasonable, cost-based fees for copying and mailing medical records. HIPAA permits health care providers to disclose records in an electronic or digital format as long as they are transmitted in accordance with the HIPAA security regulations.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER