Can Apps Slay The Medical Bill Dragon?

Kaiser Health News looks at the potential of smart phone apps to navigate the thicket of medical billing in the United States.

Today, Norman’s clients submit digital copies of their out-of-network bills through an app on their phones. Better’s employees navigate the bureaucratic thicket to track down reimbursements — and keep 10 percent of the money they recover from insurers.

The company has processed millions of dollars in claims, for everything from psychiatry to acupuncture to contact lenses, Norman said. The majority of Better’s customers have Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) or other types of insurance policies with out-of-network benefits. Unlike visiting in-network doctors, patients using out-of-network services often must pay upfront, then ask for reimbursement from their insurer later…

Better is among a new breed of start-ups trying to lead customers through the labyrinth of medical billing. Each has taken on a different aspect of billing — helping patients file claims, scanning bills for errors or making charges easier to understand.

The emergence of apps like this reflect the fact that medical billing is a complicated, often byzantine process that can mystify even the savviest consumers.