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Would simpler medical bills prevent scourge of medical debt?

You should be at the center of your healthcare, but how often do you feel you are when you have to wade through sheaves of documents from multiple entities about the care you have received. The care provider talks about treatments and procedures one way. The insurance company refers to them using other terms. Many in Illinois will probably get an explanation of benefits from an insurer after treatment. If you're lucky, it will state somewhere that "This is not a bill," but it will still indicate an amount you may owe. What? Are we all on the same planet?

Confusion associated with medical bills wasn't always the norm. But when insurance companies became the intermediary payer of those bills things became more complicated. Having insurance may make it easier to meet most bills, but medical costs continue to rise and sometimes even insurance can't stave off crippling medical debt.

It's in this environment that the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington has decided to hold a contest. The objective is to find a way to make medical bill easier to understand and to come up with a plan for getting the new billing system accepted and implemented.

Those are pretty tall orders and the prize for the winners is not so great that it might trigger a flood of entries. The person, organization or company that comes up with the winning bill design will receive $5,000. Another $5,000 will be awarded to whoever comes up with the "transformational approach" for improving the patient experience with medical billing. Entries are being taken through Aug. 10 and winners will be named in September.

We're not sure that $10,000 will be enough incentive to inspire someone to come up with a solution to a problem that has been in the making for decades. Doesn't it seem logical to think that if simpler bills would save insurance companies costly mistakes that they would have come up with them on their own long ago?

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