U.S. govt. launches contest to design better medical bill

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HHS and AARP offer thousands in prizes for simpler medical bill designs. (WPVI)

Ever read & re-read your medical bills, without making heads or tails of it?

And maybe you file it away, without ever really figuring out those charges

You're not alone.

Even as a nurse, I have trouble figuring some of them out.

So now the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with AARP, has launched a contest looking for ideas to design a simpler medical bill.

It's called the "A Bill You Can Understand" challenge.

The overall goal is to design a bill so patients can easily understand the charges, how much is covered by insurance and if the charges are complete and accurate.

It's part of a growing movement to give patients the tools they need to control costs and their healthcare.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell says the process will include patients, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and innovators.

Six healthcare delivery or payer organizations have agreed to test or implement the winning designs, according to HHS.

They are: Cambia Health Solutions, Portland, Ore.; Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa.; Integris Health, Oklahoma City; MetroHealth System, Cleveland; Providence Health & Services, Renton, Wash.; and University of Utah Health Care, Salt Lake City.

The rapid growth in high-deductible health plans has led to larger portions of patients' medical bills coming out of their pockets.

Last year, 36% of U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health insurance had a deductible of $2,000 or more, up from 20% in 2010.

The submissions deadline is Aug. 10. Winners of the cash prizes will be announced in September.

Burwell's announcement came in conjunction with the 7th annual Health Datapalooza, a federally sponsored health information technology conference that runs this week in Washington, D.C.

For more on the guidelines and contest rules, see the "A Bill You Can Understand" website.

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