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X Prize now aims to improve healthcare

$10m award offered by insurer, group

Associated Press / October 16, 2008
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INDIANAPOLIS - It may not involve rocket science, but a new X Prize Foundation competition for healthcare reform could pose the institute's most daunting challenge yet.

The California-based foundation, which helped launch the first private manned space flight in 2004, is teaming with the insurer WellPoint Inc. to try to fix the US healthcare system.

The companies have unveiled an open competition to devise solutions that improve healthcare cost and quality, and they're dangling a prize of at least $10 million for the winner.

"Reinventing and rebooting the US healthcare system is not to be taken lightly," said X-Prize chief executive Dr. Peter Diamandis.

X Prize has thrown down several big challenges in recent years. Aside from a contest that led to the space flight, the foundation also has offered $10 million for teams that can produce cars that get 100 miles per gallon or more. The foundation decided to tackle healthcare after looking at world problems.

Contest details will be worked out by early next year. But essentially the competition will look for ways to "dramatically improve" cost and quality, said Brad Fluegel, a WellPoint executive vice president.

WellPoint and X Prize officials note that US healthcare spending is projected to reach $4.2 trillion by 2016, or 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Such spending in other developed countries makes up 11 percent of the GDP or less.

Fluegel said they will look for a system of solutions instead of one or two improvements. Potential solutions might involve ways to streamline insurance reimbursement or the medical claims process that reduce administrative costs. They also might include solutions that help patients better manage chronic conditions.

WellPoint will then test the finalist ideas in its state markets. A prize will be awarded only if the solutions prove effective.

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