HHS challenges healthcare organizations to design better medical bills

The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday challenged healthcare organizations and innovators nationwide to design a medical bill that is easier for patients to understand.

The "A Bill You Can Understand" challenge seeks to make it more clear to patients what they may owe for treatment and what their insurers will and will not cover for specific treatments, according to an announcement from HHS. Medical bills often use industry jargon that is unfamiliar to patients, according to HHS. In addition, patients may be confused when bills from multiple facilities, doctors or specialists appear to cover one incident.

"This challenge is part of HHS' larger effort to put patients at the center of their own healthcare," said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in the statement. "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."

The challenge, sponsored by HHS and AARP, will award two submissions: one for the bill that is the easiest to follow and a second for what is deemed the "best transformational approach to improve the medical system," according to the announcement. HHS will accept submissions until August, and the winners will be revealed in September. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $5,000.

Six health systems have also committed to testing and implementing the winning solutions: Cambia Health Solutions in Oregon; Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania; INTEGRIS Health in Oklahoma; the MetroHealth System in Ohio; Providence Health and Services in Washington; and University of Utah Health Care, according to the announcement. Experts from these six organizations will also participate, alongside patients and other stakeholders, in a panel to advise the judges.

A third of patients enrolled in a private health plan will be surprised by a medical bill, and even patients who eschew the hospital for urgent care can be hit with unexpected payments.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- visit the challenge website

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