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Obama administration looks to simplify medical bills

By Stephen Feller
The Department of Health and Human Services hopes to find a design for medical bills that can be standardized to help people understand what they are paying for. Photo by RomanR/Shutterstock
The Department of Health and Human Services hopes to find a design for medical bills that can be standardized to help people understand what they are paying for. Photo by RomanR/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) -- Part of the problem with the cost of healthcare is understanding who is being paid and for what, with the Obama administration now looking for ways to standardize medical bills to make them easier to understand.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today launched a contest for companies in the medical industry to design a bill that can eventually be used across healthcare making it easier for patients to understand.

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Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell announced the contest at Health Datapalooza in Washington, D.C., with several companies having volunteered to test the new bill model toward the end the year.

"This challenge is part of HHS' larger effort to put patients at the center of their own health care," Burwell said in a press release. "With today's announcement, we are creating progress toward a medical bill that people can actually understand and a billing process that makes sense -- progress that includes creating a forum that brings everyone to the table: patients, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and innovators."

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Submission requirements for the contest, called "A Bill You Can Understand," include a wealth of research on medical bills, the information they should convey, what consumers currently get out of their bills and what they want their bills to convey.

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HHS set out core criteria for contest entries which include requirements for how data is presented, translated and explained. Each entry is required to address concerns already raised about the billing process and how all information included with a bill is useful to consumers.

The agency makes it a point to push "human-centered" design concepts to make bills more naturally flow with the way people process information, all of which is based on how people read, what they expect to read and how they understand information as they read it.

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Entries are expected to include a written description and video about the bill proposal, how it fits design requirements and how it will help patients better understand healthcare billing.

Contest entries are due August 10, with the winners announced at the Health 2.0 conference in September.

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