H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Pub. L. 111-152, is commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (the “Act”).  The Act’s intention is to expand access to health care insurance via (1) the establishment of Affordable Insurance Exchanges (Exchanges), (2) “improvements” to the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP) programs and (3) ensuring the coordination between Medicaid, CHIP and the Exchanges.

Presumably the Exchanges will facilitate enrollment of qualified individuals into qualified health plans.  Open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013 and the Exchanges will begin accepting applications on that date for coverage that commences on January 1, 2014.

Whether or not the Act will achieve its purpose of expanding access to healthcare coverage and whether or not the Act as a whole will be beneficial or detrimental to our economy and our citizens remains to be seen.  However, two things are certain: (1) the application process is not simple and (2) for those who apply online, verification by the government of their personal information will be easier and faster (some might say Orwellian in nature).

The first step in the process is to determine if you qualify. The draft application for a family of three consists of 15 pages.  The Act is means-tested so the government will be looking at an applicant’s economic status to determine what amount of government assistance may be available to help pay premiums.  Through a new online government clearinghouse entitled the Data Services Hub, almost instantaneously, the government will be able to verify birth records, income data and citizenship/immigration status via electronic communication with Social Security, the IRS and Homeland Security, respectively.

Slugging through those 15 pages, however, is not the end of the process.  A qualified individual will then have to choose a health plan, which could be as daunting as the application itself.

For additional commentary on the process, click here to see an Associated Press article on the subject.

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