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March 14th, 2013 5:24 pm
ObamaCare’s 21-Page Application Will Preserve Middle Men

Kudos to Sarah Kliff at Wonkblog for tracking down a draft copy of an ObamaCare application. It’s the one a person would use to get access to a state-based health insurance exchange, and the subsidies to buy coverage that go along with it.

At 21 pages and asking for lots of sensitive information, the document is likely to be much more cumbersome than most people bargained for. That’s one of the biggest hurdles facing implementation, according to Kliff:

The administration is caught in a bit of a bind here. On the one hand, Obamacare is tricky business. In order to figure out how much Americans will pay, the federal government needs to collect lots of information, everything from the size of the family to its income to whether any family members are Alaska Natives (which would make them eligible for additional services through the Indian Health Service). It’s hard to collect all that data in a way that isn’t a bit complex.

At the same time, the whole goal of the Affordable Care Act is to maximize health insurance enrollment. That puts a premium on making the applications simple and easy to use—not the kind of documents that you’d get half way through and give up on.

To find a space between the two of these, there are likely a lot of support services that will start springing up over the next few months. This could include traditional agents and brokers, whose whole line of business is understanding applications like this one.  The Affordable Care Act also envisions a group of navigators, financed by state exchanges, who will—as the name implies—help navigate the insurance system.

Meet the new middle men, the same as the old middle men.

True, cost-efficient health insurance reform would reduce reliance on “navigators” in order to eliminate the transactions costs they generate. If a product is so hard to buy that it requires help to do so, you can bet that the cost of said product will go up. And up, up, up…

The bright side? At least there will be thousands of health insurance broker jobs that the Obama Administration can claim credit for creating or saving.

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