HHS’s New Model Application – A Major Step Forward

By Jocelyn Guyer

HHS released a new version of its model applications for health care coverage this morning.  The new models represent a major step forward – they are much shorter, crisper and easier to fill out than the draft versions that were released in January of this year.

The new model applications also are a testament to HHS’s willingness to accept and respond to public input.  I’m guessing it wasn’t easy to release the draft applications in January, knowing that they would provoke complaints and controversy.  But, by doing so, HHS was able to gather important feedback from consumer advocates, states and others and, ultimately, create a much better product with which to help people sign up for coverage in the fall and beyond. So, kudos to leadership and staff at HHS who took the heat for the initial draft and managed to turn it around and make major improvements.

One particularly notable improvement was the decision by HHS to create a special short application form for adults without children.  By doing so, HHS was able to eliminate for single adults a major source of the complexity in the original draft application – the questions needed to figure out who is in your household according to IRS rules. As a result, we should see far more young adults and other single people applying for coverage in the fall.

The new applications also include other improvements such as:

  • Much clearer, stronger descriptions of who needs to apply for coverage together
  • A tag-line that informs people how to get a copy of the application in Spanish.
  • A somewhat more manageable process for tracking down the extremely complex information that people who are offered coverage are expected to submit.  (This is never going to be really pretty thanks to how Congress wrote the ACA.)

Are there additional changes that we’d like to have seen?  Yes, of course, and we’ll certainly be passing those along to HHS.  Plus, we still think that even with a better model application, lots of people still will need some hands-on assistance when submitting their applications. But, for now, the agency deserves credit for taking a major step forward in easing a primary source of enrollment challenges this fall.