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Federal health officials finalize health plan ID system

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today finalized its plan to remove red tape from the health care system by establishing a standardized system of billing identification numbers for individual health plans.

Currently, the department said, providers use a wide range of identifiers and formats when billing health plans. That often results in time-consuming problems, such as difficulty determining patient eligibility and misrouting of transactions. Under the new system, each plan will have a single, unique health plan identifier, or HPID.

“These new standards are part of our efforts to help providers and health plans spend less time filling out paperwork and more time seeing their patients,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a news release.

The move had been expected, but the agency released the final rule today. The department estimates the streamlining made possible by the system will save about $6 billion over the next 10 years.

The change is the latest in a string of regulatory simplifications over the past year. The newest rule also gives providers an additional year — until October 2014 — to begin using new uniform codes to classify diseases and health problems. The original deadline had been Oct. 1, 2013.

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