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Obama administration announces simpler health insurance application form

Today the Obama administration announced it had streamlined and shortened the forms needed to apply for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Under the ACA, middle-class individuals and families who do not get health insurance coverage through their employer will be able to buy insurance through exchanges starting on October 1st, and most families will be able to get tax credits (based on income) to make it more affordable.  More importantly, families will not be able to be turned away because of pre-existing conditions or illness. For low-income uninsured people, programs such as Medicaid will be expanded for those who qualify.  The hope is that 30 million more Americans will be insured by January 1st, when the benefits would go into effect. Of these, approximately 6 million are Latinos, according to the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

“Everybody sat around the table and said, `this is too long,'” said the President at a press conference today, explaining why they had shortened the forms.

For single people and families who do not need financial assistance with their premiums, the application is now 5 pages or less.  For families, it is slightly less than 12 pages.  The application is still extensive – families need to show tax returns, pay stubs and other financial records.

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For Latino families, understanding the form – as well as trusting the privacy of information – is crucial, says Jennifer Ng’andu, Director of the Health and Civil Rights Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza.

This is especially important for mixed-status families, like an undocumented family member filling out an application for a qualified citizen in their family, explains Ng’andu.  “For immigrants who are reluctant to seek out services, it is important to say the information is private and is only used for the purpose of obtaining eligibility benefits for the applicant who qualifies,” she explains.

“It is absolutely critical for the government to engage trusted community leaders and organizations who will be the conduit for coverage of so many Latino families,” says NCLR’s Ng’andu.  “There are ample resources dedicated to communications, but they will also need to build training modules navigators can use,” she adds.

Of the approximately 6 million Latinos eligible for health insurance under the new law, about half will be eligible through expanded Medicaid, about a quarter will be eligible through expanded employer-based offerings and about a quarter will seek insurance individually through the exchanges, says Ng’andu.

The online application will go live here on October 1st.

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