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Help The Obama Administration Design A Better Medical Bill

Please? Pretty please?

Help The Obama Administration Design A Better Medical Bill
Photo: Jo Ann Snover via Shutterstock

The only thing more painful than going to the hospital is the steep bill that comes later, but the Obama administration thinks design can help make a difference. That’s why the administration launched an open contest that will pay two $5,000 bounties to the best medical bill redesigns.

The A Bill You Can Understand contest was announced this week during the Health Datapalooza contest by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. It’s sponsored by the AARP, and administrered by Mad*Pow, which has had a fair amount of practice trying to leverage design to improve our healthcare system.

The major goal of the contest is to come up with a template that better explains to patients what their health insurance plan will pay, what they owe, and if the bill is complete, or still in processing. There will be two winners, each of whom will win an award of $5,000: one for the easiest medical bill to understand, and one for the medical bill which most effectively relates to patients what, if anything, needs to be done next.

Anyone who has ever received a hospital bill knows these are big problems. The world of medical billing seems almost pointedly designed to confuse, which bloats the administrative costs of the health care industry (think about all the effort expended on hunting down payments from bewildered patients). Considering how much money a more transparent medical bill design could save patients and hospitals alike, a $10,000 bounty seems like chump change.

Designers who want to enter the “A Bill You Can Understand” contest have until August 10 to submit ideas. Winning designs will be featured at the Health 2.0 annual fall conference in September, and may eventually be implemented by industry groups.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.