Simplified health benefit application unveiled - FOX 35 News Orlando

Simplified health benefit application unveiled

Posted: Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The first draft was as mind-numbing as a tax form. Tuesday the Obama administration unveiled simplified application forms for health insurance benefits under the federal health care overhaul.

The biggest change: a five-page short form that single people can fill out. That total includes a cover page with instructions, and an extra page to fill out if you want to designate someone to help you through the process.

But the application form for families still runs to 12 pages, although most households will not have to fill out each and every page. Finally, there's also a five-page form for households that do not want to apply for financial assistance with their premiums.

The paperwork takes on added importance because Americans remain confused about what President Barack Obama's health care overhaul will mean for them. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Tuesday found that 4 in 10 are unaware it's the law of the land. Some think it's been repealed by Congress, but in fact, it's still on track.

Consumers will start getting familiar with the new health insurance applications less than six months from now, on Oct. 1, when new insurance markets open in every state. Most people with job-based benefits will not have to bother with the new applications, only the uninsured.

Under the law, middle-class people who don't get coverage through their jobs will be able to purchase private insurance. Most will be able to get tax credits, based on their incomes, to make their premiums more affordable. Low-income uninsured people will be steered to government programs like Medicaid.

Benefits begin Jan. 1, and nearly 30 million uninsured Americans are eventually expected to get coverage.

While the old forms were widely panned, the new forms were seen as an improvement. Still, consumers must provide a snapshot of their finances to see if they qualify for help. That potentially includes multiple sources of income, from alimony, to tips, to regular paychecks.

"Given the amount of information necessary to determine eligibility, it's hard to see how the forms could be any shorter," said Robert Laszewski, a former insurance executive turned industry consultant.

Activist Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, is an administration ally who had openly criticized the first draft of the forms, worrying that consumers would get discouraged just trying to fill them out. He called the changes "very positive."

"There has got to be a balance to between getting adequate (financial) information to make sure everybody gets the help they're entitled to under the law, while at the same time trying to keep the process consumer-friendly," said Pollack.

Although the new forms are shorter, the administration wasn't able to get rid of all the complexity. Individuals will have to gather tax returns, pay stubs and other financial records before filling out the application.

Administration officials expect most consumers to apply online through the new insurance marketplaces in each state. A single application process will serve to route consumers to either private plans or the Medicaid program. Identification, citizenship and immigration status, as well as income details, are supposed to be verified in close to real time through a federal "data hub" that will involve pinging Social Security, Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service.

Currently, applying for health insurance individually entails filling out a lengthy questionnaire about your health. Under Obama's overhaul, insurers will no longer be able to turn away the sick, or charge them more. The health care questions will disappear, but they'll be replaced by questions about your income. Consumers who underestimate their incomes could be in for an unwelcome surprise later on in the form of smaller tax refunds.

"Consumers will have a simple-easy to understand way to apply for health coverage later this year," said Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner, also overseeing the rollout of the health care law. She said the application is "significantly shorter than industry standards."

  • HealthMore>>

  • Should you ever ask a woman if she's pregnant? (No.)

    Should you ever ask a woman if she's pregnant? (No.)

    Thursday, July 24 2014 10:55 PM EDT2014-07-25 02:55:58 GMT
    Is she or isn't she? How about her? Her? Him? (Looks it.) She definitely is. (I think.) Have you ever see a woman coming down the street and want to ask "Are you pregnant?" We human beings are curious creatures. It turns out even some 4-year-olds want to know. Justin Otero is now banned for life from the Doughnut Inn in Monroe, Connecticut. It was a harsh price to pay, some say, for such a seemingly innocent mistake.
    Is she or isn't she? How about her? Her? Him? (Looks it.) She definitely is. (I think.) Have you ever see a woman coming down the street and want to ask "Are you pregnant?" We human beings are curious creatures. It turns out even some 4-year-olds want to know. Justin Otero is now banned for life from the Doughnut Inn in Monroe, Connecticut. It was a harsh price to pay, some say, for such a seemingly innocent mistake.
  • Manhattan nursery school's sanitizing machine keeps air clean

    Manhattan nursery school's sanitizing machine keeps air clean

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:47 PM EDT2014-07-24 22:47:17 GMT
    All of us feel the same way about "cooties": Eww. At the Goddard School on the Upper West Side, a high-tech machine is keeping "cooties" out of the classroom. "This is the latest and then most effective sanitization method available today," says Bill Swan, the owner of the Goddard School. He purchased the ZONO Sanitech for his school about six months ago. The machine is the size of a double refrigerator and uses oxygen to kill viruses and bacteria.
    All of us feel the same way about "cooties": Eww. At the Goddard School on the Upper West Side, a high-tech machine is keeping "cooties" out of the classroom. "This is the latest and then most effective sanitization method available today," says Bill Swan, the owner of the Goddard School. He purchased the ZONO Sanitech for his school about six months ago. The machine is the size of a double refrigerator and uses oxygen to kill viruses and bacteria.
  • Americans shop local and organic for health and ethics

    Americans shop local and organic for health and ethics

    Thursday, July 24 2014 6:13 PM EDT2014-07-24 22:13:49 GMT
    Five years ago, Sonia Zutic made a life-changing decision: she decided to eat with a conscience. Sonia is among a growing number of adults who swear by food that's strictly organic and free of additives and preservatives. Many have decided that ethical eating is no longer a trendy fad, but is a blueprint to life.
    Five years ago, Sonia Zutic made a life-changing decision: she decided to eat with a conscience. Sonia is among a growing number of adults who swear by food that's strictly organic and free of additives and preservatives. Many have decided that ethical eating is no longer a trendy fad, but is a blueprint to life.
Powered by WorldNow

35 Skyline Drive
Lake Mary, FL 32746

Phone: (407) 644-3535
News Tips: (866) 55-FOX35

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices