The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) came out this week with a draft insurance application, showing what applying for benefits under the Affordable Care Act exchanges may look like. The application runs 15 pages for a family of three, extinguishing some hopes that signing up for a plan could be as simple as online shopping.
According to a CNBC/AP article, the online application outline is not much shorter, running at least 21 steps. Some of the steps have multiple questions included. The information will then be reviewed by at least three major federal agencies, including the IRS, to verify an applicant’s identity, citizenship, and income. The IRS is supposed to process online financial application in real time because the ACA is means-tested, meaning that lower income people get the most generous help to pay premiums. Middle class applicants will be eligible for tax credits to help pay premiums to private companies, while low income applicants may be eligible for social programs like Medicaid.
The draft applications in paper and online form were posted by HHS seeking feedback from consumer and industry groups. HHS estimates that the online application will take about 30 minutes to complete, and the paper version will take about 45 minutes. Some groups are concerned that at that length, the form may overwhelm uninsured people, leading them to simply give up. Giving up will be an issue next year when carrying health insurance becomes mandatory.
HHS estimates it will receive more than 4.3 million applications for financial assistance in 2014, with online applications accounting for about 80 percent of them. Because families can apply together, the government estimates 16 million people will be served.