How Long Should You Keep EOBs?
Explanations of benefits, or EOBs, are important documents, particularly if you are undergoing regular medical treatment. But how long do you need to keep them? As with most documents, that depends on a lot of factors.
What Is the Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) For?
Why exactly do you get EOBs? They’re not bills — which is why, believe it or not, many people just throw them away.
An explanation of benefits is dispensed to both patient and provider as a means of identifying how a claim is processed and what amount may be owed by the patient.
Medical EOBs are beneficial for a number of reasons, but how long should you keep them on file? As with any other personal documents, the length of retention time is dependent on a number of variables. Regardless of how long you choose to retain them, make sure they are stored and then destroyed securely to prevent your sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
The EOB details exactly what medical procedures or treatments you or someone on your health insurance underwent on specific dates. They list the codes for each treatment or item as well as a short description of what the service entailed. The EOB breaks down:
- Health care services/treatments provided to the patient
- What the doctor, hospital or other provider charged for the service(s)
- The charges that are covered and the charges that are not covered by your insurance
- What your insurance company paid the provider
- The amount you’re responsible for paying to the provider
It’s important to note that an EOB is not a bill, but a breakdown of how an insurance claim was paid on your behalf. If you see something on your EOB that doesn’t look right or isn’t accurate, contact your insurance company right away.
How Long Should You Keep EOBs?
Experts recommend keeping medical EOBs for a set period, but how long depends on the individual circumstances of the patient in question.
The IRS advises taxpayers to keep relevant documentation for as long as they may be needed to verify deductions. If you plan to file a claim for a refund, keep EOBs and other tax documents for three years from the filing date of your original return or two years from when you paid your taxes — whichever is later. 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.
Explore additional guidelines based on health.
Standard Health Conditions
For situations such as one-time treatments or anything standard or routine, follow these guidelines:
- Store EOBs and medical bills securely, comparing related items for accuracy, keeping track of your deductible and ensuring no services were double billed.
- If you are not claiming the medical tax deduction on your return, medical payments have been satisfied by all parties and your medical condition has been resolved, you can safely destroy your EOBs.
- If payments are outstanding, there are any billing discrepancies or treatment is ongoing, file the EOBs in a secure location and revisit them the following year.
Serious Health Conditions
For serious or recurring health conditions, follow these guidelines:
- Keep all medical bills and EOBs on file, comparing related items for accuracy.
- Securely store EOBs in chronological order for future reference.
- In the event of chronic or serious illness, keep EOBs for five years after the last treatment date, or seven years after you’ve claimed the medical tax deduction.
How Long to Keep Other Medical Records
You likely have other medical documents along with your EOB. If you don’t have a recurring or serious condition, keep documents like prescription receipts for a year in case your insurance company needs to see them. Keep them longer if you’ve claimed any prescription costs on your taxes.
You don’t need to hold onto medical bills long — you can have your bills destroyed once you’ve paid them and filed your income tax return.
When to Keep EOBs and Medical Records
Keeping an explanation of benefits makes it easier to create and maintain your health history. You can cross-reference your insurance and ensure you’re getting all the benefits you should receive, and your EOB can prove you reached your deductible. In case of fraud or billing errors, EOBs can also serve as proof to support your case.
When there is a problem or question with an EOB or a medical service listed on an EOB, hold on to that document at least until the issue is resolved and all parties have been notified of the resolution.
Otherwise, here are some general guidelines on how long to keep EOBs in specific situations:
- No issues: If there is no question or problem with an explanation of benefits, keep it filed for one year from the day it was issued.
- No bill yet: Keep your EOB someplace easily accessible until you match it with its corresponding hospital or doctor’s bill, then file the two together (and keep them for a year).
- Assisting someone with care: If you are supervising or assisting with the care of someone, like an elderly or chronically ill relative, you may want to keep their explanation of benefits to have a record of their health history. It’s easy for those undergoing treatment for serious medical conditions to lose track of what services they’ve received and when.
- Serious illness: When you or someone you are caring for is seriously ill, it is recommended that your EOB record retention is five years after the illness or condition is alleviated. If you or the patient is claiming or has claimed a medical deduction, keep the explanation of benefits for seven years.
The bottom line is to hold on to any questionable EOBs or those that cover services for chronic illnesses. Otherwise, feel free to shred these documents after one year.
You’ll also want to safely store any records that explain your medical history. Retain documents that include details like these:
- New diagnoses, including what they are and when they were diagnosed
- Current medications, including dosages and start dates
- Supplements and vitamins you take
- Changes to medications, including type and dosage
- Health status changes
- Injuries sustained, including what they are, when they happened and dates of treatments
- Dates of any surgeries
- Dates and durations of hospitalization
- Family members’ medical conditions that could be genetic
Secure Storage and Destruction of EOBs
EOBs and other sensitive documents contain personal information which can be used for identity theft and should always be stored and destroyed in a secure manner.
How to Store Explanation of Benefits
Store sensitive documents in a secure location, or scan them and store them on your hard drive or in the cloud with password protection. Choose a reliable cloud provider that uses encryption to keep the data stored in it secure. Use an encrypted internet connection when you upload or download EOBs and other sensitive records from the cloud.
Ideally, you should keep physical medical records like EOBs in a combination safe or lockable filing cabinet. Keep any keys or combinations in a secure location. You should also keep paper files away from any area that may flood or be exposed to moisture, such as a basement.
When you store physical EOBs and records, use file folders to keep similar documents together. For instance, you could put together an EOB and related medical bills or prescription receipts until it’s time to destroy them. Label the folders with dates and store multiple folders in chronological order.
How to Destroy an Explanation of Benefits
Once EOBs are no longer needed, it’s imperative they are shredded by a trusted, skilled company like TrueShred, rather than with a personal shredder. On-site shredding services allow you to follow the chain of custody, ensuring the integrity of your personal data. You also save time and money on equipment and disposal costs.
Contact TrueShred online or call (888) 559-1928 to receive an estimate for secure, on-site shredding services throughout Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.
You Can Trust TrueShred Through the Entire Shredding Process
Save time and let TrueShred destroy your EOBs and other medical records you no longer need. Here’s what you can trust about TrueShred:
- The team: TrueShred is a locally owned and operated family business founded by security industry professionals.
- Security: TrueShred ensures a secure chain of custody for your sensitive material from the time it leaves your office to the conclusion of the curbside shredding process.
- Compliance: TrueShred issues Certificates of Destruction — auditable proof to maintain compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA), and the Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA).
- Reliability: TrueShred always guarantees your satisfaction and arrives on the appointed day. If we don’t, your service is free.
- Pricing: TrueShred offers simple, straightforward and fair pricing with no surcharges and no surprises.
”I have worked with several document destruction companies over the past ten years and until contracting with TrueShred, I hadn’t met a company with which I felt so compelled to share with professional colleagues. TrueShred’s personnel are always polite, considerate, timely and attentive. . . I trust all of my future shredding needs to TrueShred!”READ MORE