Short Takes On News & Events

A Shorter Exchange Application. But Is It Simpler?

By Jenny Gold

April 30th, 2013, 1:43 PM

Consumer advocates have been complaining for months that the Obama administration’s 21-page application to sign up for health insurance in the exchanges is too long and complicated. The designers of the application estimated it would take 45 minutes to complete.

The administration heeded the advocates’ pleas with the introduction Tuesday of a modified application of just 3 pages for individuals who are not offered health coverage from their employer.

The application for families and individuals with employer coverage has been whittled down to about 12 pages.

President Barack Obama pointed to the modifications in a press conference Tuesday as an example of the fine-tuning that’s going on as the federal government prepares to roll out the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act beginning in October.

“Immediately everybody sat around the table and said: ‘Well, this is too long, especially, you know, in this age of the Internet. People aren’t going to have the patience to sit there for hours on end. Let’s streamline this thing,’” Obama said. “So we cut what was a 21-page form now down to a form that’s about three pages for an individual, a little more than that for a family, well below the industry average. So those kinds of refinements, we’re going to continue to be working on.”

Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, emphasized the march toward open enrollment in October. “This is another step complete as we get ready for a consumer-friendly marketplace that will be open for business later this year,” Tavenner said in a press release.

Enroll America President and former White House official Anne Filipic called it a “victory for consumers.”

But are the revised applications really simpler? Or just shorter?

There are a few small changes in the way the questions are asked, but the bulk of the paper reduction comes from the decision to have three different forms: one for single adults who aren’t offered any other coverage (that’s the 3-pager), one for families, and a third for people who don’t want financial assistance. The old version had room to explain the details of six separate family members, while the new version has room for only two. That means any family with more than two people has to make photocopies of the application to include everyone else.

Meanwhile, some of the extra information asked for in the original version, including details of an employer plan, a page to explain whether you’re an American Indian and a request for assistance completing the application, have all been tacked on as appendices.

7 Responses to “A Shorter Exchange Application. But Is It Simpler?”

  1. b says:

    This whole argument about the form being too complicated is complete nonsense. Try completing an application for individual HI, see how simple that is. I went through the original ACA application and it was a piece of cake, took about 15 minutes to complete. Most of the form was INSTRUCTIONS and duplicate pages for multiple family members. I don’t get it. what exactly is hard about filling out this form ? A credit card application is harder.

  2. Len says:

    “Immediately everybody sat around the table and said: ‘Well, this is too long, especially, you know, in this age of the Internet.”

    If that reaction was “immediate” then why did it get released that way in the first place? Government isn’t alone n this. Businesses, too, often lose sight of the customer, do something that’s a complete miss and fall all over themselves in self-congratulation over their responsiveness. The problem is that an awful lot of poor quality stuff gets through and never gets revisited. Here’s one vote for trying harder to get it right the first time.

  3. Bonnie Langer says:

    What about the large % of the poor, uninsured who:

    A. Don’t have a computer
    B. Don’t know how to read?

  4. Compared to the applicationS for SSDI or SSI, this is quite an accomplishment.

  5. Vickye W Boykin says:

    I would like a copy of this. Is it available now to the public?

  6. There are several interesting aspects of the new application. First, it’s worth noting the short form only applies for single people who are not eligible for health insurance and only claim standard tax deductions. If they itemize, the longer form must be used.

    Next, it’s interesting that there are more questions about ethnicity than health condition.
    There are more questions about income sources than health insurance.

    Third, on the short form, there is an interesting question about student loan interest. Is it for health exchange purposes or to track down those who either are not paying or are reporting improperly? Remember, the information from the application process is shared with the IRS.

    Finallly, despite the title of the form, “Application for Health Coverage & Help Paying Costs,” this is not the health insurance application. That must be done separately.

  7. Curtis says:

    Anyway you look at it, the Affordable Healthcare Act is most definitely NOT affordable! Just the added cost of creating the form, revising the form and then the manpower required to review each form and make a determination if we the people completed the forms correctly is crazy. But of course, since it is shared with the IRS, and tax penalties will be levied to those not participating correctly or those who fail to estimate their 2014 annual income correctly, perhaps the system will pay for itself – out of our pockets!