The Los Angeles Times reported on a story of a patient trying to obtain a copy of her blood tests from her doctor's office. The office wanted to charge the patient $25 to retrieve the test results and send them to her via first-class mail (refusing to fax such results to her for free).
Under both HIPAA and California privacy laws, however, the patient was entitled to such records with only minimum administrative charges:
Most providers are required to follow both HIPAA and the California law, deferring to whichever offers greater consumer protection in cases where the laws differ. As a result, [this patient's] doctor had no legal basis for charging the $25 administrative fee for her lab results.
Under California law, healthcare providers are allowed to charge a fee for the cost of copying a patient's medical record and for the postage to mail it. But the cost cannot exceed 25 cents per page for photocopies and 50 cents per page for microfilm.
The law in California also permits doctors to charge a "retrieval fee" for locating patient records and for making them available. But HIPAA does not allow it. Because HIPAA offers consumers greater protection than California law in this area, doctors in the state cannot charge patients fees beyond those allowed for photocopying.
The doctor's office was also wrong about refusing to fax the test results to the patient, claiming it would violate patient confidentiality and potentially compromise the privacy and security of her information.
But under HIPAA, sending health information by fax is not prohibited. In addition, the law states that the provider must give patients the information they ask for in the format they request.
The full article is available here.
"Those Medical Tests Are Yours," Los Angeles Times (July 27, 2009).