The $5,000 prize money isn't much, but the benefits could be huge for patients if an HHS contest to design a better medical bill produces a winner.
It's just one of the latest efforts in part of a growing movement to give patients the tools they need to control costs and their healthcare.
In announcing the government's new "A Bill You Can Understand" design and innovation competition, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said Monday 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. Participants 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.
Representatives from each healthcare organization also have agreed to advise federal judges in selecting the best designs.
“This challenge is part of HHS' larger effort to put patients at the center of their own healthcare,” Burwell said in a news release.
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.
In response, a growing number of healthcare providers are working on improving transparency in their pricing, and, as a consequence, their bills to patients.
The new medical bill design contest is sponsored by the AARP and coordinated by MadPow, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based design firm.
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. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Karen DeSalvo, head of HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, are also scheduled to address the conference Monday.