HHS rolls out new billing rules to cut red tape

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has issued interim rules expected to take some of the complexity out of issuing patient bills and save the healthcare industry up to $12 billion over the next decade, the agency announced last week.

The rules are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and are to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. They include the streamlining of paperwork and electronic billing and related transactions, as well as making it easier to determine eligibility for specific procedures. In addition, patients will be provided with more specific information regarding their out-of-pocket costs for procedures, and how they affect their annual insurance deductibles.

The intent of the regulations is to allow hospitals, physicians and other providers more time to focus on healthcare delivery and less on administrative tasks. A 2010 study suggested nearly 12 percent of every healthcare dollar is currently spent on administrating healthcare services.

"As a pediatrician, I know how frustrating it can be to spend time dealing with paperwork instead of patient care," said CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick in a statement. "These rules will help healthcare professionals operate more efficiently, lowering their costs and reducing hassle for consumers."

For more information:
- read the HHS press release