Is $6.50 the maximum amount that can be charged to provide individuals with a copy of their PHI?
No. For any request from an individual, a covered entity (or business associate operating on its behalf) may calculate the allowable fees for providing individuals with copies of their PHI: (1) by calculating actual allowable costs to fulfill each request; or (2) by using a schedule of costs based on average allowable labor costs to fulfill standard requests. Alternatively, in the case of requests for an electronic copy of PHI maintained electronically, covered entities may: (3) charge a flat fee not to exceed $6.50 (inclusive of all labor, supplies, and postage). Charging a flat fee not to exceed $6.50 per request is therefore 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 maintained electronically.
In some cases where an entity chooses generally to use the average cost method, or chooses a flat fee, as described above, for electronic copies of PHI maintained electronically, the entity may receive an unusual or uncommon type of request that it had not considered in setting up its fee structure. In these cases, the entity may wish to calculate actual costs to provide the requested copy, and it may do so as long as the costs are reasonable and only of the type permitted by the Privacy Rule. An entity that chooses to calculate actual costs in these circumstances still must—as in other cases—inform the individual in advance of the approximate fee that may be charged for providing the copy requested.