Following criticism that the application to get health insurance through Obamacare was too long, the Health and Human Services Department announced Tuesday they've cut the application from down to three pages (view the application for individuals here).
The application will help people determine whether they're eligible to purchase a private insurance plan on the state-based insurance exchanges. It will also give consumers their other government health care options, such as coverage under Medicaid (which is expanding in some states due to Obamacare). Consumers will be able to apply for insurance on the state-based exchanges -- online marketplaces where people can shop for private plans -- starting October 1. Coverage begins in 2014.
The application was initially so long because of the complexity of determining who's eligible to get insurance on the exchange, who's eligible for subsidies, and so on. Multiple agencies, including HHS and the IRS, will be involved in implementing the exchanges and subsidies. HHS said in a press release Tuesday, "The paper application was simplified and tailored to meet personal situations based on important feedback from consumer groups."
Given how complex the process is, even some of the Affordable Care Act's proponents, like Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., have called the exchange rollout a potential "train wreck." Republicans have seized on those concerns toand justify their continued attempts to curtail its implementation and repeal it all together. The rollout of the exchanges -- and other parts of Obamacare, like the expansion of Medicaid -- is complicated by the fact that many Republican lawmakers at the state level have opted not to participate in the process.
In a press briefing Tuesday, President Obama said the administration would continue making "refinements" to the law, such as reducing the number of pages on the Obamacare application. He noted that the three-page application is now "well below the industry average."
He stressed, however, that the implementation of the exchanges and the Medicaid expansion only impacts the 10 to 15 percent of Americans without health insurance or who purchase insurance on the individual market.
"For the 85 and 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they're already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don't know it," Mr. Obama said. "Their insurance is more secure. Insurance companies can't drop them for bad reasons. Their kids are able to stay on their health insurance until they're 26 years old. They're getting free preventive care. So there're a whole host of benefits."
The president did acknowledge that setting up the exchanges is "a big, complicated piece of business." Indeed, the administration expects to spend $4 billion this year on setting up the 50 state-based exchanges and $1.5 billion next year running several of them.
In response to Baucus' remarks calling it a potential "train wreck," he said, "I think that any time you're implementing something big there's gonna be people who are nervous, anxious about is it gonna get done until it's actually done."
Mr. Obama continued, "Even if we do everything perfectly, there'll still be, you know, glitches and bumps" in the implementation. "But if we stay with it, and we understand what are long- term objective is, which is making sure that in a country as wealthy as ours, nobody should go bankrupt if they get sick, and that we would rather have people getting regular check-ups than going to the emergency room because they don't have health care, if we keep that in mind, then we're gonna be able to drive down costs."