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Feds: Standardizing Electronic Health Payments Could Save $4.5 Billion

Here's a twist. You know how you keep hearing that the Affordable Care Act is doing little more than raising health care costs?

Well, the Obama administration says a new rule it's issuing under the law could result in a savings of as much as $4.5 billion over the next decade.

The proposed rule sets uniform standards for how health insurance companies are to pay electronic claims for health care services, and encourages the use of electronic, rather than paper, claims.

While the administration estimates the rules could cost insurance companies as much as $28 million to implement, it says those costs will be more than made up by savings estimated at as much as $40 million over 10 years.

But the biggest winners are expected to be doctors and hospitals, the recipients of those electronic payments. They stand to reap between $3 billion and $4.5 billion in lower administrative costs once the new rules are fully in effect starting Jan. 1, 2014.

Another winner, says the administration, is the environment. Transitioning to more electronic payment will save an estimated 800,000 pounds of paper and avoid the release of 2.2 million pounds of greenhouse gas over the next decade.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health care professionals will spend less time filling out paperwork and more time focusing on delivering the best care for patients," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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