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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Health Care > Rights of Patients/Medical Records

New Law Makes It Easier for Low-Income People to Get Copies of Their Medical Records



As of March 2020, some people with low incomes can get copies of their New Jersey medical records for free. This new state law can save people a lot of money, since some health care providers charge patients up to $1 per page for medical record copies.

How do I qualify?

The law states that hospitals and health care professionals cannot charge medical record copy fees to patients who do not have the ability to pay. To qualify, you must present either a statement certifying annual income under 250% of the federal poverty level, or proof of eligibility for, or enrollment in, a state or federal assistance program.

For a single individual in New Jersey for the year 2020, 250% of the federal poverty level is $31,900. The amount increases based on household size and changes from year to year. For a family of two, the current FPL is $43,100; for a family of three, $54,300.

Examples of qualifying state or federal assistance programs include SNAP (food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), state and federal school lunch programs, Medicaid, and WorkFirst New Jersey (General Assistance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Other assistance programs may be included.

How do I request copies of my medical records?

Most hospitals and health care professionals have their own process for medical record copy requests. Some have online portals where records can be viewed or requested. Some require written requests. Some pay other companies to handle medical record copying services for them. The best way to find out is to speak to the person who handles medical record requests in your health care provider’s office. That person should be able to tell you exactly what they need before they can release your medical record copies to you.

Usually, the hospital or health care provider will want the following: 

  1. A written request identifying the records you want, and
  2. A signed release permitting the health care provider to disclose the records.

They may also require the dates of service for the records you are requesting. Other required information is typically included on the provider’s authorization form that they provide.

Some providers may require separate requests for service records at different locations, or even different departments at the same facility. Others may not. Check with the records custodian for any such requirements to make sure you get copies of all the records  you need. The law typically requires the hospital or health care professional to respond to your records request within 30 days.

The provider will likely charge you for the records unless you make a request under the new law. The next section of this article will explain how to do that.

How can I request medical records at no cost?

It is not yet clear exactly how the new law will be carried out. At some point, the NJ Department of Health and the NJ Board of Medical Examiners will enact regulations providing more guidance. Until that time, use the procedures described below.

Written statement

Provide a written statement in which you certify that:

  1. You cannot afford to pay for the medical record copies, and
  2. Your annual income is at or under 250% of the federal poverty level, or you are eligible for or enrolled in a state or federal assistance program.

If the health care provider does not have its own form for providing that statement, use the form below.

Proof of eligibility

The health care provider can request proof of income eligibility or enrollment in an assistance program. (Note: Proof of ability to pay for records copies has yet to be defined.) 

When you have an advocate

Under the new law, if you are represented by a not-for-profit corporation or an attorney who is not charging you for legal assistance, your advocate is also entitled to a free copy of your medical records.

If your request is denied

If a hospital or other health care provider turns down your request for a free copy of records, ask for the reason in writing. Sometimes they may only need more documents or information, which you can provide. If they still won’t provide copies or if they charge for them, you may have grounds for filing complaints against the hospital or health care provider in court and with state and federal agencies. For information on filing such complaints, contact the LSNJ Hotline at 1-888-576-5529 and see the additional resources below.        



Patient Request for Free Copy of Medical Records (NJSA §26:2H-5n & §45:9-22027)

Use this form to request a free copy of medical records. At the same time, you will likely need to submit a valid records release form and a written request for records. Depending on the provider, additional information and documents may be required. Always save copies of request documents.

Name of Patient Requesting Records: _____________________________________________________
Patient’s Date of Birth: _______________   Name of Hospital or Health Care Provider:  ______________

I request that you not charge me any fees for my requested medical record copies, as provided by New Jersey state law. I cannot afford to pay for the requested medical record copies, and (check one):

___ I certify that my annual income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.
___ I have attached proof that I am enrolled in a state or federal assistance program. If you need further information to approve this request please contact me at the address and phone number below.

Patient Signature:  __________________________________________    Date: ____________________
Patient Address and Phone #: ____________________________________________________________

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