If you’re like many Americans today, as a health care consumer you are paying more out-of-pocket for your health care than you have in the past. At the same time, information on health care prices and quality is hard to come by.

REST EASY: Health care coverage can be difficult to navigate. You may be paying too much, or you may not understand your expenses at all. However, a number of organizations are working to clear the confusion.

The lay of the land

Health care billing and payment processes are not always consumer-friendly — they were designed for business-to-business transactions among doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies. So it’s no wonder that getting timely, reliable and accurate information to help manage your out-of-pocket health care expenses — and your health — can be frustrating. You have probably read stories about consumers who have difficulties with medical bills in newspapers like USA Today or on social media. Maybe you have had a similar experience yourself.

The good news is — your voices are being heard. As you will see from the variety of organizations participating in this special section, many health care industry groups understand that consumers are frustrated with their financial experiences, and are taking steps to make things better.

“Health care billing and payment processes are not always consumer-friendly...”

A new role for patients

Navigating the system to get the information you need — whether it’s about prices, quality, financial assistance, or eligibility for government programs — needs to be less of a hassle. To accomplish that, the industry needs your help. There are two things you can do.

First, learn about how health care billing, payment and insurance work. Consult free consumer guides to health care billing, payment and price estimates online. Next, provide input and feedback on your financial experience to the people who can shape those experiences. The most helpful input is constructive and solution-oriented. That means talking about what you need and what would help in the future — not just what went wrong.

Please take opportunities to share your suggestions with the people at your doctor’s office, your hospital’s patient financial services department and your health plan who can put your ideas to work. If you’re not sure who to talk to, ask. Maybe you just have a quick comment. Or maybe you want to take it to the next level. For example, some hospitals have Patient and Family Advisory Councils or other groups designed for consumers who want to share their ideas on a regular basis.

The financial side of your health care experience doesn’t have to be a mystery. It’s going to take time to get the hassle out of paying for health care.

Do you know what's happening in health care? Take Mediaplanet's quiz to find out what you know about the health care profession and the relationship between Americans and medical coverage.