Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, providers can charge patients for the “reasonable costs for copying and mailing the records.” Those rates vary widely from state to state. A South Carolina law implemented in June amends a 1992 state law and places adjusted caps on medical record fees—and brings digital versions into the fold.
For electronic copies, South Carolina hospitals and physicians can charge no more than $150, regardless of the number of times a patient has been admitted. For paper duplicates, fees cannot exceed $200 per admission. A spokeswoman for the South Carolina Hospital Association said the group supported the bill.
High fees for medical records are not uncommon, said Tom Lamb, a personal injury attorney in Wilmington, N.C., whose firm maintains a state-by-state list of policies. Providers say the fees are justified because of labor and retrieval costs, but patients often don't know the policy for their state. And there already is great variance among states for what providers can charge. —Bob Herman
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