A friend of mine is currently in a hospital where the staff have told her (verbally) on multiple occasions that "her stay will be covered by her insurance". Yet, she received several thousand dollars in medical bills recently, from the institution itself and not her insurance company.

She has received some things in writing, but not as much about the financial process as she would have hoped (and nothing related to the bill she currently has). Thus, she is wondering if she can record her verbal interactions with hospital staff in order to hold them accountable if she is told that insurance will cover the costs, but she still receives a medical bill.

This could be seen as an invasion of privacy of the care provider(s); yet it pertains to her case and since they have sidestepped conversations about giving her the official financial paperwork, or written consent that what they say is actually true (they could be saying it's true just to get more money out of her), it seems that this would be legal to do.

As far as I understand it, HIPAA is meant to protect patients from care providers disclosing their medical information. Nothing I've read (HIPAA Patient rights; HIPAA disclosures to family and friends) has anything about a patient's right to disclose their own information to whomever they want (in this case, family).

Can she legally record her conversations with her care providers under HIPAA? If so, what would be required on her part in order to ensure that said recordings would hold up in court if, in fact, staff were intentionally or unintentionally lying to her in order to bill her?

Yes I know it's highly unlikely that they would bother not billing insurance and try to screw her over. It's a long story, insurance claims have been difficult, just trying to figure out how to help her not rack up $10k+ in medical bills due to unintentional or intentional fault on the side of the care providers.

  • Sorry for the bad tagging. If there are appropriate tags, please feel free to edit! May 20, 2016 at 18:23
  • As you note, HIPAA protects the privacy of patients, not if hospitals. Recording conversations may be regulated by other laws, however. It's not unusual for a hospital to bill a patient for a covered service, though. It could be a mistake, or it could be that the hospital isn't a network participant with the insurer.
    – phoog
    May 20, 2016 at 19:06

1 Answer 1


It is correct that HIPAA does not restrict what patients do. Recording a conversation may be governed by federal or state law: this is a good guide (check the relevant state law, in particular whether this is in a two-party state). Insurance companies never bill patients, but they do send notices saying "here's what you must pay" (which should match what the hospital bills). Note that apart from the billing department (whom patients do not see), medical staff including check-in receptionists do not and cannot know in real time what is actually covered for an individual, and they only give guesses. This article and the follow-up lightly discusses patient-responsibility issues. It would be interesting, but expensive, to see whether suing a hospital for their staff being wrong about insurance can get you any relief.

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