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CAN DOCTORS CHARGE YOU FOR YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS?

Yes. Here's why: it costs us medical staff time to pay someone to retrieve, copy, compile, and transmit medical records; so most medical governing bodies permit doctors the right to charge for providing patients copies of their records - and we are mandated by law to keep the originals. However, there are suggested rates to fairly compensate our clinics while preventing gouging of the public (for example $25 for the request plus 25 cents per page photocopied). For records being released to insurance companies they usually set their price points to a maximum cap. And for records to lawyers, they usually leave it to our professional discretion what we'll charge within reason.

Sometimes doctors will charge a nuisance fee for frivolous requests. At my clinic we used to print off current labs and x-ray reports for patients who asked pro bono, but we now charge a few cents to dissuade people from interrupting our staff and using up our ink, electricity, and paper for these requests that in reality make no difference to a patient's care.

This honor system works smoothly most of the time. But not always. I once requested a consult on a patient of mine and was incensed to learn that the specialist invoiced them an exorbitant sum for two pages of clinical notes. I contacted the medical governing body for their area about the predatory practice and they made intercession on behalf of my patient. My patient ended up paying zilch.

If you have further questions on your medical records or feel you are being taken advantage of, visit your State/Province medical board/college website. They typically have information on the transfer of medical records process, acceptable practices and charges, and how to report the rare usury, malfeasance, or nonperformance.

As a final note on transferring medical files, if the asking price is too high, ask your receiving doctor if they need all of your medical file. Very often I only need key documents like past surgeries or pathology reports with the rest of the verbiage not being relevant. You can then request the meat of the charts that your new doctor needs at a fraction of the asking price for the entire record leaving the fat behind - in your fat wallet :)