Medical records come into our lives in a variety of ways. Sometimes we walk out of the doctor’s office with papers in hand. Sometimes they get sent to us via snail mail or e-mail. Frequently, they appear in electronic portals such as MyChart. That can make it hard to figure out what to keep and how to keep it.
Let’s start by delineating the different types of medical info that will come your way:
- Bills and receipts
- Insurance forms
- Explanation of Benefits (EOBs)
- Appointment notifications
- Test results.
Bills and receipts
Do you need to keep it? Medical expenses are tax-deductible only if they exceed a certain percentage of your Adjusted Gross Income. You may want to hold on to receipts and then see what the total is at the end of the year. This is true for prescription receipts as well as bills and receipts for doctors, tests, and procedures.
How to store it? Create a folder called “Medical Receipts” and keep it with your tax information for the current year. If you’re keeping a prescription receipt, get rid of all of the other information that comes with the prescription (side effects, etc.) before putting the receipt in the folder. (If you want to keep the side effect information, put it somewhere else, not in a receipts folder).
Do you need to keep it? In many cases, doctors’ offices will transmit the bill directly to your insurance company so you don’t have to submit any forms. If you do go home with forms that you have to submit yourself, I recommend that you send them to your insurance company right away so that they don’t get forgotten or buried under other paper.
How to store it? Scan it before sending it, or photocopy it and keep it in a folder called “Submitted to Insurance”. Get rid of the scan or copy once you get reimbursed.
Explanation of Benefits (EOBs)
Do you need to keep it? If the insurance company has reimbursed you for money you already paid, then keep the EOB because you will have to deduct the reimbursed amount from the total of your receipts when figuring out if your medical expenses are high enough to be deducted. If the insurance company has not reimbursed you anything — just paid the doctor or hospital — then you can toss it.
How to store it? Keep it with the receipt that you filed in your “Medical Receipts” folder (see “Bills and receipts” above). Don’t bother to save all the extraneous pages such as how to file a complaint and how to get help in other languages.
Do you need to keep it? If the doctor’s office gives you a piece of paper listing your upcoming appointments, make sure you enter the appointments in your calendar right away. If you’re confident of your calendaring system, then you can toss the paper. I see multiple doctors within the same hospital system, and I sometimes get a printout of appointments that are one or two years in the future. I’ll usually keep those because I may not even have a calendar with those years yet!
How to store it? If you do decide to keep it, then put it in an “Upcoming Events” folder — the same one in which you would put theater tickets or wedding invitations.
Do you need to keep it? I like to keep my latest test results (blood test, bone density, etc.) for future reference. Depending on the test, I may only keep the most recent one, or I may keep the one before that for comparison purposes. It’s up to you if you want to keep reports older than that. It’s certainly not necessary to keep every test you ever took.
How to store it? This is a situation where whatever makes the most sense to you is how you should store them. It’s find that it’s helpful to create a folder for each type of test. For example, standard blood tests may be ordered by different doctors at different times, so it make sense to keep them all in one folder called “Blood Tests” rather than splitting them by doctor or medical condition. In other cases, you may want to store them by medical condition. I have a folder just for the results of bone density tests, and it also includes the written report that the medical professional provides. I don’t recommend storing your test results by doctor, since your doctor might change over time.
What if I get my results electronically?
If your test results come to you via an electronic system like MyChart, it’s up to you whether to download and/or print them for your files. It depends how comfortable you are accessing documents on-line. Personally, I download them onto my computer because it’s easier for me to find files that way.
Let me know if I’ve missed anything and I’ll try to address it!