A reform to medical bills may be on the way in the U.S. thanks to a new initiative from the Obama administration.
The healthcare situation in the U.S. is fairly complicated, and one problem is that it is hard to know who is being paid and for what. Now the Obama administration is looking to standardize medical bills so that they are easier to manage.
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Medical bills are confusing for patients
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced a new contest to design a bill that will one day be used across the medical system. This will make it easier for patients to understand their bills.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell told reporters about the contest at Health Datapalooza in Washington, D.C.. Various companies have already volunteered to test a new billing system later this 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.”
Contest aims to simplify billing process
The contest is called “A Bill You Can Understand.” Requirements for proposals include in-depth research on medical bills, what information they should display, what patients currently understand from their bills, and what patients would like their bills to explain.
Core criteria for submissions to the Obama administration scheme include data presentation, translation and explanation. Each submission will be expected to address existing concerns about the billing process, and deal with how the information can be made useful to patients.
HHS emphasized that designs should be “human-centered” to make sure that bills fit with the way that we naturally process information. This relies on research into how we read, what we want to read in a bill and how we process information as we read it.
Patients stand to benefit from simpler system
Each entry will have to include a written description as well as a video detailing the proposal. The material will have to explain how the proposal fits design requirements and how it will improve patients’ understanding of medical bills.
Entries are expected to be submitted before the August 10 deadline. Winners will be announced at the Health 2.0 conference in September.
There will be two $5,000 prizes, one awarded for “easiest bill to understand” and the other for its “transformational approach.”
“Providers, payers and consumers all benefit if we fix the current system,” organizers said on their website, abillyoucanunderstand.com. “Challenge participants will compete to deliver a solution that results in clearer, less complex and more understandable medical bills that ultimately improve the patient financial experience.”
Complicated medical bills mean that many people feel disconnected from their care, say the organizers of the contest. By making bills easier to understand, authorities can make patients more connected to their care and less stressed about the whole experience.
The contest is the latest in a string of efforts to shake up healthcare from the Obama administration, which has already expanded health insurance and championed the adoption of electronic medical records.
Hopefully there will be some good submissions in the contest and we will soon be getting medical bills that are easier to understand.