How to Audit Your Medical Bills

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Medical issues are challenging to deal with on their own, but then come the medical bills. Unfortunately, medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Medical bills can often be astronomically high, causing many people to fall into debt when trying to pay them off.

However, many Americans don’t realize that they should always be reviewing their medical bills to verify the charges are valid. This is especially true for people who are worried about paying their bills. An audit from Equifax found that hospital bills exceeding $10,000 had, on average, $1,300 in incorrect charges.

You may not need to check your bill thoroughly if you had just a simple consultation, but there are more likely to be errors if you had a more complicated visit, such as a surgery. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide and tips on how to audit your medical bills.

What to Do When Reviewing Your Medical Bills

Take these steps when auditing your medical bills:

Ask for an Itemized Copy

Your medical provider will likely send you a summarized version of your medical bill. This is a condensed version of your statement that groups charges into categories, so it doesn’t provide you the level of detail and insight you need to review your bill thoroughly.

If you receive a summary bill, reach out to the relevant parties and get the itemized version instead. You have the right to ask for an itemized bill, either from the billing department at the medical facility or online. Please note that even a small procedure can result in a multipage statement, so you’ll have a lot of reviewing to do.

Once you have the copy, review it for any suspicious items. This can include:

  • Double billings: Does a line item show up twice when you don’t think it should? For example, two doses of morphine when you’re sure you were only given one. You can compare charges to your medical records to verify or disprove items on your bill.
  • Non-procedural or non-medical-related items: Some hospitals have been caught trying to charge for things like hospital bed rentals, surgical equipment and other reusable supplies. Hospitals aren’t legally allowed to bill these items to patients, and you can dispute these charges immediately.
  • Unused items: Items such as slippers, toiletries and over-the-counter medication can cost hundreds of dollars if the hospital supplies them. For example, a simple over-the-counter painkiller, such as Tylenol, can cost as much as $15 for one pill. Dispute any false claims and, if you can remember to do so, bring your own slippers.
  • Mistaken identity: Mistakes happen on medical bills from time to time. A fellow patient with a similar name or insurance number could have all their medical treatments added to your invoice. Don’t fall victim to mistaken identity, and make sure your charges match your treatment.
  • Refused treatments: At some point during your medical care, you may have refused certain medications or treatments. If you did, make sure they don’t appear on your final bill.
  • Other: Watch out for any other charges that seem incorrect in any way, such as incorrect medication names or dosages, incorrect dates, the wrong name or address, wrong insurance information, wrong surgery minutes, incorrect room classification, and so on.

If there are any codes or words on your bill that you don’t understand, take the time to look them up. You should be able to find explanations online. Some useful resources include this Medical Dictionary, the Medicare code lookup tool and this ICD code reference tool. An ICD code ensures you were billed for the correct diagnosis.

Check Your EOB and Medical Records

Next, check your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) and your medical records. Compare these to a copy of your medical bill. You can get your EOB from your insurance provider. Your EOB will automatically come via mail or email and show what portion of the charges are being paid by the insurance provider. The statement will say “Not a bill” at the top.

You can get your medical records from your health provider. You will likely have to fill out a form requesting a copy of your medical records, and you may be charged a processing fee for the request. The cost can vary for each provider, but states usually limit how much a provider can charge. Ask up front what that fee will be.

Talk to Your Physician

Hospital stays are often traumatic, and it’s unlikely you remember every procedure or medication ordered by the doctor. It’s entirely within your rights to call your doctor and ask them to verify each item. Another sound strategy is to ask for a written copy of the original order. Hospitals can’t bill you for procedures not ordered by your doctor in writing. Compare the written copy of the original order to your medical bill and dispute anything that doesn’t match.

Keep Records of Everything

Keep records of everything, including receipts, dates of services and payments, healthcare visits and provider names. This will help you avoid confusion as you sort through all the details. It will also make any disputes easier as you have all your proof organized. Additionally, if you end up in small claims courts, records will be necessary for your lawsuit.

Hire an Auditor

If you have tried to dispute your bill to no avail, it’s time to take action. You can request an internal audit from the hospital and consider hiring your own auditing service to secure a second opinion. Escalating things to this stage usually uncovers errors in the billing and results in reduced costs.

What Should You Do Next?

Challenge the Charges in Question

The first step in challenging your medical charges is to contact the medical facility’s billing department and try to speak to someone who may reduce your expenses.

Many Americans don’t realize that medical charges are negotiable. Even if you can’t have items removed, you can ask for them to be reduced. Hospitals can ultimately charge whatever they want for medical costs, but you can compare your fees to what is considered standard. Use the FairHealth tool for comparison. If your charges are double or triple the standard, bring this up in negotiations.

You can also file an appeal with your insurance company.

Work With a Patient Advocate

If challenging the charges on your own doesn’t result in anything, you may consider hiring a patient advocate. An advocate will negotiate on your behalf, and they have the experience to garner results. Usually, advocates only charge you if they’re successful in getting a reduction in your bill, and their charges are typically a percentage of what you saved on the bill.

File a Formal Complaint

Some cases of medical price gouging are downright illegal. If you believe yours to be an unlawful situation, you have every right to file a formal complaint with your state’s attorney general’s office. Creating a record of abuse can also help protect your credit from further unfair damage.

Protect Your Credit

When your medical debt is sent to collections, you have a period of 180 days before it appears on your credit report. This means you have some time to work things out before your credit is impacted.

Ultimately, you need to make sure you take care of your bills in one way or another. Negotiate what you can, pay what you can and communicate with billing staff so they know what you’re doing. This can delay them from sending the billing to collections. Even if the medical debt isn’t fair, it can end up being sent to collections and ruining your credit.

Be proactive in auditing your medical bills quickly and acting as soon as you suspect anything is wrong. If you’ve already had medical bills show up on your credit report, you can still work to improve your credit score. Consider using credit repair services from Lexington Law. We’ll help you address any unfair and unverified negative items on your credit report. Get your credit score back on track today.

Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.


How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on Your Credit Report?

March 3, 2020 &• 5 min read by Cheryl Lock Comments 56 Comments

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Your credit report offers valuable insight into your financial history and affects most of your financial future. Everything from whether you get approved for a mortgage to what your credit card interest rate will be balances on your credit score.

Negative information on your credit report can be detrimental for years. Wonder how long hard inquiries stay on your credit report? It’s not always clear how long inquiries and other negative information stays on your credit report and affects your score. The length and severity vary, but here are four common types of inquiries and how long they affect your credit score.

1. How Long Do Hard Inquiries Stay on My Credit Report?

What is a hard inquiry?

Hard inquiries are created every time your credit report is accessed by a business when you apply for a line of credit. For example, when you apply for a car loan, mortgage, student loan or credit card, your credit receives a hard inquiry.

How long do hard inquiries stay on your report?

Inquiries remain on your credit reports for 24 months. However, hard inquiries impact your score for only the first 12 months. After that, they have no impact on your score.

How much do hard inquiries affect your credit score?

New credit—including inquiries and any new credit accounts—make up just 10% of your FICO score. A single inquiry typically only drops your credit score by three to five points. As long as you apply for credit only when you need it, this is one of the lesser hits to worry about.

It is important to consider the perception associated with numerous hard inquiries, though. Even if your credit score can take a few hits and remain good or excellent, perception can matter. If a lender pulls your history and sees you’re running up a string of inquiries, they may wonder why. It can look like you’re desperate for credit but not getting approved by lenders, which isn’t an ideal look on your credit report.

2. How Long Do Credit Accounts Stay on My Credit Report?

What is a credit account?

Credit accounts refer to all of the accounts for which you hold credit, including credit cards, mortgages and car loans. Credit scoring models like to see a healthy balance to the types of credit accounts you have and can manage effectively. Negative information on a credit account includes late or missing payments.

How long does negative credit account information stay on your report?

Negative account information, such as a late payment, can stay on your credit report for seven years from the date it was first reported as late. If you close the account, the entire account typically will be removed from your report after seven years. If the account remains open, the negative information should be removed after seven years while the rest of the account information stays on your report.

Positive information, on the other hand, remains on your credit report indefinitely. If you close the account, positive information typically stays on your report for 10 years past the closing date.

How much do credit accounts affect your credit?

Your credit mix accounts for 10% of your credit score. A healthy mix means more points. The age of your credit accounts also impacts your score, accounting for 15% of the score. If you don’t have many credit accounts or if you close your accounts, it could negatively affect your credit score.

Payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score, and making payments on time is the most important factor in determining your credit score. A single late payment can drop a good score by as much as 90 to 110 points.

Most lenders don’t report missed payments until accounts are more than 30 days past due, so if you can catch the missing payment in enough time, you might not notice a hit at all. Other lenders will let one late payment slide, especially if you’ve been a loyal customer for many years and have a good excuse for why you missed it.

3. How Long Do Collection Accounts Stay on My Credit Report?

What is a collection account?

When you fall behind on making payments on an account, your debt could end up in the collection’s department of that company. The creditor may also sell your debt to a collection agency, which reports it as a collection account. At this point, the original creditor that sold the debt should not continue to report a balance owed, but you should watch out for duplicate collection accounts.

How long will collection accounts stay on your report?

Collection accounts remain open for seven years plus 180 days from the date the account was delinquent. After that time, it must be removed regardless of when it was paid or when it was placed for collection.

How much do collection accounts affect your credit?

Understanding how collection accounts can affect your credit score is tricky. The most important factor that will affect your credit score when it comes to collections is how recently the collections occurred—the more recent the collection, the lower the score. Multiple collection accounts can also lower your score. Unfortunately, settling or removing a collection may not impact your score positively.

While there’s no way to tell exactly how much a collection account will affect your credit score, it is one of the higher penalties. The best course of action is to avoid having accounts sent to collection in the first place.

4. How Long Do Bankruptcies Stay on My Credit Report?

What are bankruptcies?

Bankruptcies are proceedings that let you restructure debt you have no way of paying. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you file, you may pay a portion of some of your debt back via a plan. Once your bankruptcy is over, outstanding debts are considered discharged and no longer owed.

How long do bankruptcies stay on your report?

Chapter 7, 11 and 12 bankruptcies stay on your credit report for 10 years from the date filed. Completed Chapter 13 bankruptcies are usually removed after seven years from the filing date.

How much do bankruptcies affect your credit?

In the aftermath of a bankruptcy, your score is likely to drop dramatically. However, the purpose of bankruptcy is to provide a last-resort option for restructuring your financial life. By making strong financial decisions during and after your bankruptcy, you can work on bringing your score back up.

How long do inquiries stay on your credit report? As you can see above, it depends. And the impact each has to your score is variable.

But one truth remains. Negative items on your credit report do impact your score. You can’t afford to ignore these items, especially since some may not even be accurate. Sign up for your free Credit Report Card today. You can check your credit, get a better grip on your credit report and learn how to get the most from your credit score. 

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How To Convince Your Spouse You Need A Budget

Being able to convince your spouse you need a budget can be challenging.  You know it is important that you have a budget, but how to you get your partner on board?

Learn tips on how to convince your spouse you need a budget -- and learn how to create a budget

Learn tips on how to convince your spouse you need a budget -- and learn how to create a budget

You might be the saver in your relationship and your partner is a spender.  Your situation could be that your spouse just does not care or have enough understanding of the topic of money.

Whatever the case, the place to start to resolve any differences in money begins with one word – BUDGET.  This is not optional.  It is required if you plan on gaining control of your finances.

Where do you start and what do you do?  Let me start by saying the things you should not do when it comes to money and your partner:

  • Do not nag or annoy your partner.
  • Never manipulate or act like a parent.
  • Don’t try to talk about it when he or she is doing something else.
  • Do not say that they have to do this “or else” (ultimatums rarely work).

Now that you know what you should not do, let’s get into the nitty gritty of what you can so you and your spouse or partner are truly on the same page.

Read More:


Set a Budget Date

This may sound strange, but it works.  When you set aside time for a financial meeting, you both can work together without distractions.

Make sure that the kids are entertained or even away at a friend’s or grandma’s house. It may mean setting up time after they are in bed.  Turn off the television.  Put the phone on silent (or even in the other room).

Allow yourself no more than one hour for your meeting.  If you go longer than that, you both my lose focus.  If you find that one hour is not enough time, set up another meeting.

Then, once your budget is working, continue to have regular meetings with your spouse or partner to go over your finances.  As your budget begins to take hold, these sessions will be shorter and shorter (and also much less stressful).

Play the Budget Game

Many times, people do not want a budget because they really don’t know what their finances look like.  A good way to see if you both agree is to do your own “dummy budget.”

To do this, you both will get a sheet of paper.  Set the timer for 10 minutes.  During that time, write down all of the bills you pay each month – as well as the mount.  Make sure to also include the total income you bring in as a family.

Once the timer is up, go over your lists together.  You may find that you both are well aware of your finances, which makes it easier to move into the next step.

However, you might also find that one of you has no idea what your financial situation looks like.  Allow time to go over both lists and figure out why there is such a disconnect between what you really pay vs. what you think you pay.

Have a heart to heart talk

During your meeting, make sure you talk about more than just the amount of bills and income.  You need to really understand one another and how you feel about money.  These topics could include:

  • If you love to save or spend and why
  • Your financial fears
  • What money means to you
  • What your goals are with your finances

Once you better understand money for your partner, the easier it will be to work together towards achieving financial goals.

Set goals as a couple

As I shared above, you need to talk about your goals as individuals.  Once you learn that about one another, see what you can do to create set goals as a couple.

Your goals could include to pay for college for the kids, buy a new car in 15 months or even take that dream vacation with the kids.  Your individual goals then morph themselves into family or couple goals.

Now, you can create a plan to actually move forward together to reaching your financial goals.

Use the right tools

Once you have completed the above, you are now ready to get started creating a budget — together.

There are many types of budgets you can use.  You might find you are old school and want to use a paper and pencil.  However, a spreadsheet may work better.  Or, you and your spouse might be the couple who loves to use an app.  The thing is that none is better than the other.  One is not right nor wrong.

Find out the type of budget that works best for you as a couple.  Then, sit down to tackle the creation of your budget. Using something such as our free budget calculator can help you work together to make your budget work.

Being on the same page financially lays the ground work to helping improve your relationship.  Your budget is the first step into turing this dream into a reality.

hand on calculator

hand on calculator


Should You Consider Pet Insurance?

Owning a pet comes with an array of costs, and medical care can be one of the big ones. Does that mean you should get health insurance for your pet? Is buying pet insurance worth it?

Insurance policies for pets are more worthwhile for some pet parents than others. While a policy that covers general pet wellness and preventive care may not make economic sense (since the cost of the premiums can be similar to cost of care), a policy that covers accidents and illness can be a smart money move, particularly for pet parents who would have trouble covering a hefty vet bill should Fluffy or Fido suddenly get sick or injured.

But plans vary significantly on what they cover—and what they cost. Here are some key facts to consider when shopping for a pet insurance plan.

Average Cost of Pet Healthcare and Emergencies

Between food, daily care, equipment and toys, the cost of owning a pet can be high. The cost of veterinary care can also stack up pretty fast.

Pet healthcare costs vary widely, depending on region and what kind of care your pet may need. But, according to the American Pet Products Association , dog owners spend an average of $212 per year on routine vet visits, while cat owners shell out an annual average of $160 on routine care.

Heartworm tests and prevention can tack another $35 to $132 to the annual healthcare bill, while flea and tick prevention can cost $40–200 per year.

Even a healthy pet may need emergency care, ranging from a few hundred dollars to well over $1,000 Wound treatment and repair, for example, can run as high as $2,000 for a dog. Emergency surgery for a large dog can cost between $2000 and $5000.

What is Pet Insurance?

Once a niche product, pet insurance policies have been steadily gaining in popularity. Indeed, many employers now offer pet plans as part of their benefit packages. But what exactly is pet insurance—and how does it work?

Like health insurance for people, pet insurance companies help ease some of the costs of keeping your pet healthy. You can choose from different levels of coverage, with each plan costing a monthly or annual premium based on how much coverage you choose.

cash management account. If your pet is young or healthy, or you choose a lower tier, you can get accident and illness coverage for a fairly low cost, which pet owners may find well worth the security of knowing your pet can get the help it needs.

But it’s key to read the fine print. Many plans limit the amount you can claim, either annually or over your pet’s lifetime. If your pet is unfortunate enough to suffer a major medical problem, you could quickly max out your plan’s limit and find yourself paying the difference.

Depending on the cost of the premium, wellness-only and wellness add-ons may not be worth the price, since they can end up costing about the same, or potentially more, as paying out of pocket for routine care.

Alternatives to Pet Insurance

Again, like humans, unexpected expenses can come up from time to time, but that doesn’t mean they need to hurt your pocket.

Another way a pet-owner can pay for both expected and unexpected medical bills that come with pet ownership is to have an emergency fund specifically earmarked for your pet. Stashing just a little bit of cash each month into your pet care fund can slowly add up to a significant financial cushion.

Whether you do or don’t spring for pet insurance, you can lower the cost of pet care by monitoring your pet’s diet and exercise and staying up to date on needed vaccines. This can help keep your pet from needing emergency care—and prevent getting hit with an outsize medical bill. Even knowing the most common ailment associated with your pet can prevent a minor problem from turning into something major.

The Takeaway

Buying pet insurance that covers accidents and illness can be a reasonable hedge against a multi-thousand dollar vet bill. The payoff for wellness coverage, however, is less clear, as the amount you pay may be close to the amount you would have paid anyway.

If you decide to take out pet insurance, do your homework and make sure you’re aware of all the policy’s limits and exclusion.

Ready to adopt a new fur baby? Setting up an emergency fund for Mittens or Rex can be a smart money move. SoFi Money® makes it easy to set aside just a little money each month to cover unexpected pet care expenses.

Learn more about SoFi Money today.

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Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.



6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes

On a tight budget, but love clothes? Here are 6 money-saving tips so the shopaholic in you can still enjoy new clothes.


Bruce and Jeanne Lubin
March 24, 2017

summer clothing in July and August, and fall and winter clothing in January and February. (You can often find the best sales right after the holiday season.) It’s sometimes a bummer to buy something you’re not going to be able to wear for six months, but when the time comes to switch seasons, you’ll be happy you already have some new clothes to wear—all of which were purchased on sale!

Befriend Those in the Know

If you have a favorite shop you find yourself spending a lot of time in, make sure to get friendly with the sales staff! Clothing stores often have unannounced sales, or they regularly begin sales on certain days of the week. If you’re down with the people who work there, they’ll often you tip you off. And if they really like you, they may let you put an item on layaway until it goes on sale a few days later.

Keep It Simple

When you’re buying clothes, always go for classic looks rather than modern, trendy ones. A blue V-neck T-shirt will be fashionable year after year, while something with more exotic colors or patterns will go out of style quickly. By choosing the basics, you won’t have to buy as many new articles of clothing each season.

Take It to the Tailor

Going to a tailor may seem like an expensive proposition, but it’s often worth it if you unearth a good deal on a suit or other item of clothing that doesn’t quite fit. Found some jeans for ten bucks that look great but are an inch too long? A jacket that’s a steal, but a bit too baggy in the arms? For a small price, you can get these items custom-fitted at a tailor. And you’ll still be saving a bundle from what the normal retail price would be.

Revamp Shoes and Purses Yourself

Not happy with the color of a handbag or pair of fancy shoes? Instead of buying new accessories, turn that unbecoming chartreuse into an elegant black with a can of shoe color spray. You can pick up an inexpensive can of shoe color from a repair shop, then revamp those heels yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you.

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher. You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

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