HHS's draft consumer application panned by GOP

After releasing the draft version of the application consumers will use to apply for individual policies through health insurance exchanges, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is facing criticism that it's too complex.

The application, which was issued with little fanfare, will "help people make apples-to-apples comparisons of costs and coverage between health insurance plans and learn whether they can get a break in costs," HHS spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt said. The agency hopes to amend the draft with input from the public, reported the Associated Press.

But critics are concerned with the time required--averaging 30 minutes to 45 minutes--to fill out the 21-page application. "This lengthy draft application will take a considerable amount of time to fill out and will be difficult for many people to be able to complete," Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, told the AP. "It does not get you to the selection of a plan."

These problems have led Pollack to urge HHS to simplify the application and designate counselors who can help consumers navigate the exchanges.

Similarly, Congressional Republican lawmakers said the application is too complicated, requiring consumers to provide information they're unlikely to know, including their employee identification number, reported The Hil's Healthwatch.

Calling the application "troubling," Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) asked HHS for a briefing to discuss the form and the agency's review process in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS consumer application and the GOP letter (.pdfs)
- read the Associated Press article
- see The Hill's Healthwatch article