Must a covered entity inform individuals in advance of any fees that may be charged when the individuals request a copy of their PHI?
Yes. When an individual requests access to her PHI and the covered entity intends to charge the individual the limited fee permitted by the HIPAA Privacy Rule for providing the individual with a copy of her PHI, the covered entity must inform the individual in advance of the approximate fee that may be charged for the copy. An individual has a right to receive a copy of her PHI in the form and format and manner requested, if readily producible in that way, or as otherwise agreed to by the individual. Since the fee a covered entity is permitted to charge will vary based on the form and format and manner of access requested or agreed to by the individual, covered entities must, at the time such details are being negotiated or arranged, inform the individual of any associated fees that may impact the form and format and manner in which the individual requests or agrees to receive a copy of her PHI. The failure to provide advance notice is an unreasonable measure that may serve as a barrier to the right of access. Thus, this requirement is necessary for the right of access to operate consistent with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Further, covered entities should post on their web sites or otherwise make available to individuals an approximate fee schedule for regular types of access requests. In addition, if an individual requests, covered entities should provide the individual with a breakdown of the charges for labor, supplies, and postage, if applicable, that make up the total fee charged. We note that this information would likely be requested in any action taken by OCR in enforcing the individual right of access, so entities will benefit from having this information readily available.