Applying for Health Coverage in a Few Easy Steps

By Guest Blogger

The following blog was written by Elisabeth Rodman. Elisabeth is a health policy analyst at Families USA and author of the “Ideal Application Process for Health Coverage.”

If you work on health coverage eligibility and enrollment, you may have heard that the single, streamlined application process for all health programs (required by the Affordable Care Act) should look and feel like Travelocity or Zappos—it should be easy to find the application, fill it out, and enroll in coverage. It should be straightforward and simple.

The truth, however, is that applying for coverage is a lot harder than buying an airplane ticket or a pair of shoes—we’ve talked about this before. The trick is making the application process feel simple and seamless for consumers while the eligibility system does a lot of work behind the scenes. (We’ve heard about this, too.) This week, Enroll America is releasing a new issue brief that explains the key steps of the simple, seamless application process from the consumer’s perspective. These steps are outlined as follows:

1) Applicants begin the application (online, by phone, or in person).  

2) Applicants enter essential personal information (like name, date of birth, and Social Security number).

3) Applicants receive an eligibility determination in real time.

4) Applicants enroll in coverage and pick a health insurance plan.

For those of you who are visual learners, we imagine the application process to look something like the image to your right.

Sounds easy, right? As “The Ideal Application Process for Health Coverage” describes, this simple application process depends heavily on the use of existing federal, state, and private data to determine applicant eligibility instead of asking applicants to provide their own documentation. It also allows consumers to get help at any time during the application process. It is designed with the consumer’s needs in mind and places minimal burden on those applying for coverage. And the application process is only the start. It is equally important that renewals are simple and streamlined, and that they also make minimal demands on the consumer. It should be easy to report changes that might affect eligibility, and transitions between different kinds of coverage should be seamless. Once someone gets in the door, they should stay in. 

A simple application process is just one of many strategies that can reach un- and under-insured Americans beginning in 2013, but it is an essential one that will make it possible to successfully enroll millions of consumers in health coverage that meets their needs.

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