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How Long Should You Keep Medical Bills and Records?

How Long Should You Keep Medical Bills and Records?

Do you often wonder how long you should keep your medical bills and records? If yes, then you’re not alone. Many people are unsure about the appropriate time frame for keeping these important documents.

Medical bills and records are essential for various reasons. They serve as proof of payment, document medical history, and contain important information that may be needed in the future. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a system for organizing and storing these documents properly.

Having your medical bills and records at hand helps reduce wait times. According to the International Journal of Medical Informatics, well-managed records help reduce the time physicians spend on documentation by up to 45%, allowing more time for patient care.

In this article, we’ll discuss the recommended duration for storing your medical bills and records for personal use.

What are Medical Bills?

Medical bills refer to documents that list healthcare services provided to you during a medical appointment, a stay in the hospital, or an emergency visit.

These bills include details such as the date(s) of service, type(s) of medical procedure(s), and total cost. They may also contain personal information, including your name, address, and insurance information.

Why Should You Keep Medical Bills and Records?

Medical bills and records hold significant value both in personal and professional scenarios. It documents your health management, financial accuracy, and legal protection during insurance disputes or if you file for an injury claim.

Here are some reasons why you should keep your medical bills and records:

  1. Proof of Services and Payments: Medical records show the care you received and payments made. They help you track costs and ensure you’re not charged twice for the same thing.
  2. Insurance Claims: When you file insurance claims or have to dispute one, detailed medical records and bills are needed to prove that the services were necessary.
  3. Healthcare Management: Your medical records have important info like your health history, medicines, allergies, and tests. This is essential for good care, especially if you change doctors or see many specialists.
  4. Legal Evidence: If there’s a legal issue, like a lawsuit or insurance dispute, your medical records can be important evidence.
  5. Dispute Resolution: If there’s a mistake in billing or an insurance issue, you need detailed records and bills to sort it out.
  6. Monitoring Health Expenses: Knowing how much you spend on healthcare helps with budgeting and deciding if you need to change your insurance.
  7. Family Health History: Records of your family’s health can help your care and alert doctors to possible inherited conditions.
  8. Benefits Verification: To make sure you’re getting all your healthcare benefits, like preventive care, it’s good to have a complete record of services and bills.
  9. Personal Reference: Having your medical records lets you check information, get ready for doctor visits, and fix any mistakes.

Other Documents You Need to Keep:

Aside from the typical medical bills that you receive after a doctor’s visit or hospital stay, there are other types of records and documents related to your healthcare that you should also keep.

These include:

  • Explanation of Benefits (EOB): This is a statement sent by your insurance company detailing how they processed your claim. It’s important to keep these documents as they serve as proof of payment from your insurance.
  • Pharmacy and Prescription Receipts: These receipts contain information on the medications you have been prescribed, which can be useful for future reference or when switching doctors.
  • Lab and Test Results: Keeping copies of lab and test results is crucial for tracking your health conditions and for future reference.
  • Medical Reports: These include discharge summaries, operative reports, and consultation notes from your healthcare provider. These documents can provide important information about your medical history and treatment.

How Long Should You Keep Medical Bills and Records?

Understanding the appropriate retention periods for documents such as medical bills, prescriptions, and test results is essential. If you miss the retention window, your providers may destroy them, rendering them impossible to request.

Below are the guidelines healthcare providers must follow for record retention:

Medical bills should be retained for at least a year, and for tax purposes, they should be kept for three years to align with IRS audit regulations. Ongoing treatment bills should be preserved until the issue is resolved.

Prescriptions have a different retention period, with the slips not requiring long-term storage. However, maintaining a list of medications is beneficial for monitoring treatment progress.

Test results should be kept for 5 to 10 years minimum to facilitate long-term health comparisons. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association supports the significance of maintaining personal health records for improved care.

State regulations dictate varying timelines for medical record retention by healthcare providers. Typically, doctors are required to retain records for 5-7 years after the last patient visit and for minors until they reach adulthood in addition to the standard retention period.

How Medical Bills Help During Insurance Disputes

It’s not uncommon for insurance disputes to arise. Data published by PBS found that one insurer had a 49% claims denial in 2021, while another insurer’s denial rates hit an astonishing 80% in 2020.

Having detailed medical records and bills can provide strong evidence to support your case in these situations. Here’s how medical records can help you with your insurance claim:

  1. Proof of Services Rendered: Medical bills act as documentation of the healthcare services provided to a patient, detailing the specific treatments, procedures, and care received. During an insurance dispute, these bills become crucial in substantiating claims for coverage.
  2. Cost Verification: They confirm the cost of medical services, which is essential when an insurer and a policyholder are in dispute over the amount owed or the appropriateness of charges.
  3. Coding Issues: Sometimes, disputes occur due to incorrect coding on medical bills. Discrepancies in coding can lead to denied claims, which may need to be reviewed and contested.
  4. Deductible and Co-Pay Discrepancies: Patients may dispute charges that they believe should have been covered by insurance but were applied to their deductible or resulted in higher co-pays.
  5. Network Disputes: Bills can help resolve disputes about whether services were rendered by in-network or out-of-network providers, which affects the amount the insurance must pay.
  6. Pre-authorization Concerns: For some treatments, insurers require pre-authorization. There may be a coverage dispute if services were rendered without obtaining this.
  7. Benefit Limits: Medical bills can trigger disputes about additional payments when a patient has exceeded their benefit limits.
  8. Timeliness of Claim: Disputes can also arise if there’s a question about whether a claim was submitted within the required time frame, which can be evidenced by the dates on medical bills.

Special Considerations 

Maintaining medical records is crucial for health and administrative purposes. Special considerations can streamline the process and make the most of the records, addressing challenges and ensuring preparedness for health-related contingencies.

Here are some special considerations for record-keeping:

  1. Retaining Medical Records of Minors

Medical records of minors are retained by hospitals until the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 years). For the period determined by state law for adult records, typically an additional 7 years. This means that if a state requires medical records to be kept for 7 years, a doctor would keep a minor’s records until the child turns 25. However, these requirements can vary by state, so it’s important to check local regulations.

  1. Record Retention in Cases of Severe Mental Handicaps

In cases of severe mental handicaps, patient records are generally retained indefinitely. These patients may not have the capacity to manage their own healthcare and may require ongoing care and support. By retaining records indefinitely, doctors and caregivers can ensure a seamless continuum of care.

  1. Medical Record Retention After Death

After a patient’s death, the standard practice is to keep their medical records for at least 7 years. This period allows for any potential legal or family issues to be resolved. However, certain records, like those involving communicable diseases or workplace injuries, may need to be kept for a longer period due to specific state or federal laws. Always consult local regulations to verify the required retention period.

Best Practices for Patients Keeping Medical Bills and Records

Keeping your medical bills and records in order is important.  Here are some best practices to help you stay organized:

  • Create a filing system: Designate a specific folder or binder for your medical records and bills, and keep them all in one place. This will make it easier for you to find what you need.
  • Keep digital copies: Consider scanning your paper bills and documents into a digital format for easy access and safekeeping.
  • Organize by date: Sort your medical bills and records chronologically, with the most recent ones at the top. This will make it easier to track changes in your health over time.
  • Track payments and insurance coverage: Keep a record of any payments made and the corresponding insurance coverage for each medical bill. This will help you spot discrepancies or errors in billing.
  • Update regularly: Make it a habit to update your medical records with new bills, test results, or changes in treatment plans.
  • Keep copies of important documents: In addition to medical bills, it’s also important to keep copies of other important documents such as insurance policies, pre-authorizations, and referrals.
  • Keep a list of medications: Maintaining a list of current and past medications can help monitor treatment progress and avoid potential drug interactions.
  • Secure your records: Keep your medical records safe and secure to protect your privacy and avoid potential identity theft.

Remember, it’s never too late to start organizing your medical documents!

It may seem like a tedious task at first, but by implementing these best practices, you can save yourself time and stress in the long run. So don’t wait until an insurance dispute arises – start organizing your medical bills and records today!

Digital Storage and Management of Medical Records for Patients with ChartRequest

Keeping medical bills and records personally can be a challenging task. This process often involves dealing with a multitude of papers, ranging from prescriptions to insurance claims, each demanding careful storage and organization.

Misplacing or damaging these documents could lead to problems such as delayed insurance claims or confusion about treatment history.

Moreover, tracking payments against each bill and ensuring that insurance coverage has been correctly applied can be tedious and time-consuming.

Another is ensuring the privacy and security of these sensitive documents can be a significant concern, especially in an environment where identity theft is a rising concern.

Maintaining an updated medical record requires regular effort and attention to detail, adding to the hassles of personal record keeping.

ChartRequest can make requesting medical records easy for you. It’s a platform that makes storing and handling your health documents easier and more secure. Let’s explore the benefits and features of ChartRequest, especially for personal medical record management.

Benefits of Digital Storage and Management

  • Security and Accessibility: Digital storage means your records are safe and can be accessed anytime, anywhere. This is crucial for keeping your health information private and handy when you need it.
  • Saving Space: Forget about bulky file cabinets. Digital storage frees up physical space and reduces clutter.
  • Efficiency: With digital records, finding and sharing information is quick and easy. No more digging through piles of paper.
  • Keep Track of Your Records: Eliminate the risk of accidentally misplacing crucial records that would be a hassle to replace.
  • Powerful Security: ChartRequest employs military-grade security features to keep your data secure at rest and in transit.

ChartRequest’s Features for Managing Medical Records

Subscribe & Share Plan: For those who need constant access and sharing capabilities, ChartRequest offers the Subscribe & Share plan. At just $4.99 per month, we’ll keep your records safe and make it a breeze to share them with your healthcare providers.

What the Subscribe & Share Plan Includes:

  1. Unlimited Access to Your Records: Never worry about being unable to view your own medical history. With unlimited access, your records are always just a click away.
  2. Unlimited Records Sharing: Need to share records with a new doctor or specialist? Do it effortlessly, without any extra fees or limits.
  3. Speed and Convenience: Everything happens online. Make requests through the ChartRequest Harmony mobile app or website. You’ll receive your records digitally – no waiting for faxes or mail.
  4. Simplicity: It’s easy to use. Just search for your doctor, specify what you need, and let ChartRequest take care of the rest. You can track the status of each request with just a button click.

Ready to Organize Your Medical Bills and Records?

Keeping your medical records organized is important today. It helps track your health, solve insurance issues, and get the best care. But it can be hard and take a lot of time. You might worry about privacy or losing your records.

ChartRequest is here to help. We make it easy to keep and manage your medical records online. Our service is safe, easy to get to, and works well. You can look at your records anytime and share them as much as you need. It’s quick and simple. This makes keeping records less of a hassle and improves your healthcare experience.

Build your personal health record today with ChartRequest! See how we make managing your medical records easy. You’ll see that we keep things safe and follow all the rules.

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