Medical Records and Your Rights
Medical records can be necessary for many reasons, but they’re not always easy to get. It’s important to understand your rights to ensure that they are honored, as well as to understand what steps to take if they are not.
Is it ever legal for a healthcare or insurance provider to deny you access to your medical records?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) laws make it illegal to be denied access to your medical records in almost all situations. One exception is if the content in the medical records could be so destructive to your mental health as to make self-harm likely. This usually applies to mental health records.
It’s important to know also that it is not legal for a healthcare provider to deny you access to your medical records due to an unpaid balance, outstanding bill, or for any other financial reasons.
Are all healthcare providers covered by HIPAA?
HIPAA covers healthcare providers (who transit HIPAA-protected information electronically), health plans (health insurance companies, HMOs, company health plans, and government health plans like Medicare, Medicaid, and military/veteran healthcare plans), and healthcare clearinghouses. With regard to providers, a good way to know if they are covered by HIPAA, is if they asked you to sign a HIPAA form before your first appointment. You are also always free to ask them if they are.
How do I request access?
How you are able to access your medical records can vary from provider to provider. With some providers, it may be as simple as calling and asking, while others may have online request forms, or instructions on their website. If you believe you’ve made a request, but haven’t heard anything, it may be helpful to revisit the instructions and ensure you have followed them. For instance, some providers will only process printed and hand-signed requests, so if you sent an email, they may not be aware of the request. Additionally, some providers may have longer wait times than others. Finally, also confirm that the organization you’ve requested the records from is covered by HIPAA. If it’s not, request them through one that is to ensure that it will comply.
I’ve been waiting forever, is there a time limit?
Yes, for entities covered by HIPAA laws, they have 60 days to fulfil or deny your request. However, not all entities are covered by HIPAA.
I haven’t gotten my records, what should I do?
- Make sure you have a right to the records (you probably do);
- Ensure that the organization that you placed the request with is covered by HIPAA;
- Confirm that you are in compliance with the organization’s protocols for requesting access to your medical records (including waiting the expected amount of time);
If you have taken all of these steps and still have not received your medical records or you’ve been denied access, then you can file a complaint.
We’re Here to Help
If you have suffered an injury due to medical malpractice or the negligence of another person or business, our Maryland personal injury lawyers are ready to zealously advocate on your behalf and fight to ensure that you receive the compensation that you deserve. Contact the Law Offices of Berman | Sobin | Gross LLP and schedule your free consultation today.