New Software Helps Translate Your Complex Medical Bills Into Simple Language

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Instead of using insurance industry coding and jargon to identify procedures and say what amount you owe, the Quicken Health Expense Tracker uses common definitions to simplify the statement. Ever get a headache trying to decipher a medical bill?

You’re not alone.

"Health care bills are definitely complicated, and there are widely varying rates," said Jerry Flanagan, a health care advocate for California-based Consumer Watchdog.

Intuit — the company that created Turbotax and Quicken to ease confusing household financial tasks — plans to announce today that Medical Mutual of Ohio’s 1.6 million members will be able to use a new Web tool that makes it easier for them to understand and pay their bills.

"We take complex things and make them simple," said Chris Repetto, who runs the Quicken health communications team.

The company is looking for another blockbuster product. And the new Quicken Health Care Expense Tracker just happens to answer a pressing problem for health care consumers: It makes it easier to understand what a doctor’s office, hospital or laboratory is asking you to pay by putting it in simple language.

If you had a blood draw to check cholesterol, it says that. It doesn’t mention lipid panels or cloak procedures behind mysterious codes.

If you want to know why you owe $35.43 after that blood draw, you can get an explanation regarding what insurance paid, what amount your deductible paid and your balance.

If you’re still confused about the bill, there’s a list of the provider’s contact information on the side of the screen. And if you want to pay the bill, you can click a button and use your credit or debit card as well as a card connected to any health care spending account with your insurer.

Earlier this year, Intuit quietly launched the product with some United Healthcare and Cigna patients. It hopes to sell the software nationwide.

In an effort to raise media exposure for their launch with Medical Mutual, Intuit sent out the results of a statewide survey. It found that 40 percent of Ohio patients don’t pay their medical bills because they either don’t understand them or don’t believe they are responsible for the amount due.

"What’s been interesting learning for us is that a lot of people have said that this kind of additional clarity helps spots errors," said Adam Lee, product manager for the Quicken Health Expense Tracker.

While Intuit’s new software is consumer-friendly, Consumer Watchdog’s Flanagan warns that such easy-pay products miss the real problem for health care consumers: They don’t help reduce costs.

"Even if you are armed with this information, it’s not as if you shop for health care directly. You go with your insurance company," Flanagan said.

"It’s unclear that the information really translates into any new buying power."

Contact Sarah Jane Tribble: [email protected] or 216-999-4255.

Consumer Watchdog
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