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Doctors, hospitals can charge more than $6.50 for electronic records, Civil Rights Office says

Providers are permitted to calculate the actual cost of electronic copies of records, and charge for those costs, OCR clarified.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The Office for Civil Rights, a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, today clarified that doctors and hospitals can charge more than $6.50 to provide patients an electronic copy of their records if they can show that the actual costs were higher.

In a set of guidelines issued earlier this year, the OCR stipulated that organizations covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 could only charge for copies of records within certain parameters, such as covering the cost of printing and mailing copies. Charging a flat fee of $6.50 was suggested.

[Also: Most financially strapped hospitals regret pricey electronic health record purchases, Black Book says]

Providers, however, are not shackled by that price limit. They are permitted to calculate the actual cost of electronic copies of records, and if they're permitted by the Privacy Rule -- and deemed appropriate -- they may charge more than the suggested rate.

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The $6.50 guideline, OCR said, is "an option available to entities that do not want to go through the process of calculating actual or average allowable costs for requests for electronic copies of PHI (protected health information) maintained electronically."

[Also: CAQH Index shows potential $8 billion in savings linked to adoption of HIPAA electronic administrative transactions]

OCR said in its guidelines that it would examine whether the fee was prohibitive to access of the requested records, and revisit the Privacy Rule from time to time for routine reassessment.

Twitter: @JELagasse