Feds want medical bills simplified

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Lauren

Photo by Flickr Creative Commons user Lauren

Confused by your medical bills? Surveys say you’re not alone, and now a top federal health official wants to do something about it.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced a challenge Monday to solicit new designs for medical bills to make them easier for patients to understand.

Among the problems with the current system, according to HHS: Patients often receive bills from multiple facilities, doctors or labs for the same episode of care. The bills often look different, and are often full of jargon, making it harder for people to discern what they owe and whether the bills are correct.

Six health care organizations will test or implement winning designs from the “A bill you can understand” challenge. The six – Cambia Health Solutions in Oregon, Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, INTEGRIS Health in Oklahoma, The MetroHealth System in Ohio, Providence Health & Services in Washington, and University of Utah Health Care – treat close to 3.5 million people, according to HHS.

The competition will have two winners: One for the design deemed easiest to understand, and one for the best transformational approach to improving the medical billing system. People can submit entries until Aug. 10. Winners will be named in September and receive $5,000 each. The competition is sponsored by AARP.

More information on the challenge is available here.

In the meantime, here are some tips from experts on health care billing-related issues:

How to manage a high-deductible health plan

How to read a health insurance explanation of benefits

How to (try to) find out what your medical care will cost

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