Despite what President Obama said at a press conference earlier this week, the application for Obamacare remains nearly as long as it was before the adminstration unveiled a refined version. The 21-page version that drew so much criticism for its length two months ago has in reality been reduced to 20 pages.
Both the administration and the president, though, are suggesting otherwise. “We put together initially an application form for signing up for participation in the exchanges that was initially about 21 pages long,” the president told reporters on Tuesday. “Immediately everybody sat around the table and said, ‘Well, this is too long. . . . Let’s streamline this thing.’ So we’ve cut what was a 21-page form now down to a form that’s about three pages for an individual, a little more than that for a family.”
Those cuts, however, were accomplished more by sleight of hand than by actual simplification.
That draft form released in March was designed not for an individual but for a family of six, including four children. The new “family” form, which runs seven (numbered) pages, includes paperwork for just two people. It instructs applicants, ”If you have more than two people to include, make a copy of Step 2: Person 2 (pages 4 and 5) and complete.” Thus, eight pages were shaved off of the new form – two pages for each of the four children no longer included.
The administration also creatively took four pages from the 21-page draft and made them into “appendices.” Two separate pages requesting information about an applicant’s existing employer-provided insurance have been moved to Appendix A, so they are no longer included in the seven numbered pages (or the three pages the president cited for the individual form). The same is true for the page that requests further information from American Indians and Alaska Natives and the page that allows applicants to authorize to discuss the application with the government on their behalf — now Appendix B and Appendix C, respectively.
And the first page of the application, which includes basic information and answers to frequently asked questions, now has no page number, taking another page off the official count without actually altering anything.
The family of six for whom the president said 21 pages was “too long,” then, would still have to fill out the seven pages included in the new application, plus two additional pages for each of four children, plus the five additional pages. That’s a total of 20 pages — not as short, or as simple, as the administration would have us believe.