Keep it Simple: Streamlining the ACA health insurance application
In early September, CLASP submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding the Affordable Care Act's required single, streamlined application for the online insurance exchange where individuals may select and purchase health insurance plans, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program. This application will serve as a first, simplified step for individuals seeking health coverage, subsidies, or selecting among private insurers. Individuals will be able to complete the application online, by telephone or on paper.
As states continue to prepare to provide many more residents with access to affordable health care by January 2014, it is important to remember what we have learned about enrollment in other -- sometimes complicated -- programs. CLASP's recommendations reflect one important lesson - keep it simple. A simple application that uses plain, non-technical language will help ensure that applicants are able to complete the form and enroll in the programs for which they qualify. Simplicity also means that the form should only require the basic information needed to determine eligibility and should not ask individuals for information that states can get elsewhere, such as from employers or tax records. CLASP also recommends that applications tell applicants what to do if they do not have the requested information. A simple, user-friendly form can make a huge difference in whether people will complete it accurately and whether they will ultimately receive services - helping save states administrative costs and ensuring families get needed benefits.
Even if all efforts are made to ensure that the health insurance application will be readily available and easy to understand, many applicants will still need "navigators" to help them complete the forms accurately. In the end, a 5-minute, face-to-face conversation may avoid a full week of emails. A brief recently issued by Enroll America underscores the importance of preserving applicants' right to meet with trusted health care providers and community-based staff trained to assist consumers. Consumers are also more likely to remain enrolled in programs if they are able to renew their participation for all programs at once, and if they can re-certify by telephone or online.
CLASP supports the development of simple, clear and transparent online resources to assist applicants in applying for and receiving public benefits they are eligible for. Ensuring a simple and user friendly application system to affordable health insurance in conjunction with access to trusted experts who can meet in-person to answer questions and assist with enrollment are important steps toward enrolling eligible individuals. As the implementation of health care reform continues, CLASP will continue to support efforts to ensure that all those who qualify for affordable health insurance actually receive it.
For additional resources, check out CLASP's page on Benefit Access and Health Care Reform!