The Ultimate Guide: How Long Should You Keep Medical Bills?

As healthcare costs continue to rise, keeping track of your medical bills and records has become increasingly important. Not only do these documents serve as proof of payment and a record of your medical history, but they can also play a crucial role in resolving insurance disputes, claiming tax deductions, and ensuring continuity of care. However, one common question that often arises is: how long should you keep medical bills?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the recommended retention periods for various types of medical documents, the reasons behind these guidelines, and best practices to help you stay organized and prepared.

Why Keeping Medical Bills and Records Is Important

Before diving into the specifics of retention periods, let’s first understand why it’s essential to keep your medical bills and records:

  1. Proof of Payment: Medical bills serve as evidence that you have paid for healthcare services received, which can be crucial in case of billing disputes or insurance claim denials.

  2. Tax Purposes: Certain medical expenses, including premiums, copays, and deductibles, may be tax-deductible if they exceed a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income. Keeping your bills can help you claim these deductions during tax season.

  3. Medical History: Your medical records provide a comprehensive overview of your health conditions, treatments, and medications, which can be invaluable for future healthcare providers and ensure continuity of care.

  4. Insurance Claims: When filing insurance claims or appealing denials, insurers often require detailed documentation, including medical bills and records, to support your claim.

  5. Legal Purposes: In case of personal injury lawsuits or medical malpractice claims, your medical bills and records can serve as crucial evidence.

Recommended Retention Periods for Medical Bills and Records

Now that we’ve established the importance of keeping medical bills and records, let’s dive into the recommended retention periods for various types of documents:

Medical Bills

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and healthcare industry best practices, medical bills should be retained for the following periods:

  • General Medical Bills: Keep these for at least one year after payment to ensure accurate record-keeping and resolve any potential billing disputes.
  • Tax-Related Medical Bills: For medical expenses that you plan to claim as tax deductions, keep the bills for at least three years from the date you filed your tax return. This aligns with the IRS’s statute of limitations for audits.
  • Ongoing Treatment Bills: If you are receiving ongoing treatment for a chronic condition or a long-term illness, keep the bills until the treatment is completed or the issue is resolved.

Prescriptions and Medication Records

While prescription slips themselves do not require long-term storage, it is recommended to maintain a comprehensive list of all medications you have taken, including dosages and dates. This information can be invaluable for your healthcare providers and can help prevent potential drug interactions or adverse reactions.

Medical Test Results and Reports

Medical test results and reports, such as lab reports, imaging studies, and diagnostic findings, should be kept for a minimum of 5 to 10 years. These documents can provide valuable insights into your medical history and can be useful for long-term health monitoring and comparisons.

Complete Medical Records

Most healthcare providers are required by state regulations to retain complete medical records for a specific period, typically ranging from 5 to 7 years after the last patient visit. For minors, records must be kept until they reach adulthood, plus the standard retention period.

It’s important to note that these recommended retention periods are general guidelines, and specific state or federal laws may vary. Additionally, certain medical conditions or legal situations may require longer retention periods. It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or legal advisor if you have specific concerns or questions regarding medical record retention.

Best Practices for Keeping Medical Bills and Records

Organizing and storing your medical bills and records can be a daunting task, but implementing some best practices can make the process more manageable and efficient:

  1. Create a Filing System: Designate a specific folder, binder, or digital storage solution for your medical documents, and organize them chronologically or by provider.

  2. Go Digital: Consider scanning your paper bills and records into a digital format for easy access and safekeeping. Cloud-based storage solutions or external hard drives can provide secure and convenient backups.

  3. Track Payments and Insurance Coverage: Keep a record of payments made and corresponding insurance coverage for each medical bill. This will help you spot discrepancies or errors in billing.

  4. Update Regularly: Make it a habit to update your medical records with new bills, test results, or changes in treatment plans as soon as possible.

  5. Keep Copies of Important Documents: In addition to medical bills, keep copies of insurance policies, pre-authorizations, referrals, and other relevant documents that may be needed for future reference.

  6. Secure Your Records: Implement appropriate measures to protect your medical records and personal information from unauthorized access, loss, or theft.

  7. Use Digital Tools: Consider using digital tools or apps specifically designed for medical record management, which can help streamline the process and provide additional features like reminders and secure sharing capabilities.


Keeping track of your medical bills and records is an essential aspect of managing your healthcare and finances. By adhering to the recommended retention periods and implementing best practices for organization and storage, you can ensure that you have the necessary documentation at hand when needed.

Remember, while general guidelines are provided, it’s always advisable to consult with healthcare professionals, legal experts, or tax advisors if you have specific concerns or questions regarding medical record retention. Proper record-keeping not only helps you stay organized but also empowers you to take control of your healthcare journey and make informed decisions.

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How long do I need to keep medical bills for taxes?

Keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return.

What bills should you keep and for how long?

Keep for a year or less – unless you are deducting an expense on your tax return: Monthly utility/cable/phone bills: Discard these once you know everything is correct. Credit card statements: Just like your monthly bills, you can discard these once you know everything is correct.

What papers to keep and for how long?

“There are things that we should keep for seven years like tax returns, your deductions, records of things that you’ve sold mortgage documents, medical records. There’s things you should just keep for one year – like bank statements, pay stubs, quarterly investment statements, canceled checks,” Noceti said.

How long should explanation of benefits be kept?

If you didn’t report income you should have reported, hold onto your documents for six years. Outside of the IRS guidelines, it’s generally recommended to keep EOBs for three to eight years after receiving medical care.

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