Keep It Simple: Streamlining the ACA Health Insurance Application

Sep 14, 2012

By Helly Lee and Abigail Newcomer

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.

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