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Quicken service targets medical bills

Intuit's new Quicken Health Bill Pay service lets consumers view and pay medical bills online, to help speed payments and cut costs for doctors.

Making sense of medical bills can be a challenge for both the patient and doctor. A new service from Intuit is trying to ease that pain.

Quicken Health Bill Pay, a free online service from Intuit, is meant to help consumers better understand and pay their medical bills online. The service presents the bills in an easy-to-read language, said Intuit, so patients can view the services they received and see the exact balance due after insurance. From there, they can pay the bill directly online.

The service debuts as tech companies are increasingly directing their attention to the field of electronic health records, amid a growing national discussion of the need for doctors and hospitals to go digital. In April, for instance, computer maker Dell joined forces with IT services company Perot Systems to target medical enterprises. (Earlier this week, Dell said it would acquire Perot Systems for $3.9 billion.)

In May, Intuit and other companies including Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, and Intel formed the EHR Stimulus Alliance to foster a better understanding among doctors of electronic health records.

Intuit said the Quicken Health Bill Pay service will work for anyone regardless of insurance provider. But it does require that the doctor's office enroll in Intuit Patient Payments to process the bills. This service charges the doctor a monthly fee based on the number of people in the practice. The doctor's staff can see the same bill that the patient does, so they can more easily answer specific questions, said Intuit.

Another plus, according to Intuit, is that Intuit Patient Payments can notify the patient as soon as the insurance company has paid its portion of the bill. That lowers the time it takes for the bill to be paid off and keeps the office from having to send out constant billing reminders.

People can pay off the bills using credit or debit cards or through Flexible Spending Accounts or Health Savings Accounts. Intuit claims that through Quicken Health Bill Pay, patients can pay off their bills on average 18 days faster than through traditional methods.

Intuit is counting on its new service to help both patients and doctors. The company quoted industry research showing that 40 percent of patients don't pay their medical bills because they can't figure them out or didn't think they were responsible for the amount due.