Do you want to see a copy of your hospital medical record? Many people do in order to check for errors, to better understand their care, to provide information to a new doctor, or for any number of other reasons.

You have a legal right not only to see your record but also to obtain a copy of it under the federal HIPAA law. That's the same law that protects against unauthorized disclosure of your medical information. HIPAA lets hospitals charge a fee for copying, but no more than the actual cost.

A recently filed class action lawsuit accuses three New York hospitals of overcharging. New York law follows HIPAA in permitting hospitals to charge for the cost of copying records but sets a maximum of 75 cents per page even when the actual expense exceeds that amount. The plaintiffs in the case claim that these hospitals were charging the maximum for all records when their actual cost was only 25 cents a page.

The per-page overcharges amount to pennies, but those pennies can add up for records that include dozens of pages, as many do.

A class action lawsuit involving 40 Philadelphia hospitals in 2005 resulted in a settlement of almost $600,00 for medical records overcharges.  Pennsylvania law sets maximum charges for copying medical records of $1.42 per page for the first 20, $1.05 for the next 40, and 34 cents for anything above that.

If you would like a copy of your hospital medical record, the law is clear.  You have the right to receive it and the right to pay no more than the actual cost of copying it. Health care is expensive enough without additional illegal fees.