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Friday, June 15, 2012

Five reasons to love the new design for an online application

Sarah Bagge

Staff Writer

Applying for health insurance can be a tough process. You might have to fill out complicated applications or go to a local office for an in-person interview to figure out which coverage programs you qualify for. You might have to wade through lots of fine print and confusing acronyms to estimate the costs of plans offered by different insurers. You may be on the phone for hours trying to determine if your current health care provider is part of a plan's network.

All this can make picking the right plan confusing, time-consuming, and difficult. But what if there was one website you could visit that would help you quickly find and enroll in your ideal coverage?

Last week, a team of designers, health care experts, and federal and state insurance officials released a template for an online application that will offer a "first class user experience" called Enroll UX 2014.

The designers building the Enroll UX 2014 prototype started off by talking to some of the Americans who will be using health insurance exchanges to find coverage in 2014. The team traveled to 11 different states to get feedback directly from consumers on what they found difficult about applying for health coverage and what they'd like to see in an ideal application. Using a fictional family called the Hermannsons, the demo released last week shows how easy applying for coverage can be. Here are a few of the best features of the application, which bring to life some of the Affordable Care Act's eligibility and enrollment simplifications.

  1. It assesses your eligibility for multiple programs at the same time. Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 will give families a number of ways to get health coverage: Medicaid, CHIP, and help paying for insurance through the health insurance exchanges. Because the requirements for each form of coverage differ, many families (like the fictional Hermannsons in the demo) will find themselves getting coverage from more than one source. Rather than having to fill out separate applications for each family member, the single Enroll UX application helps each family member get enrolled in the programs for which they are eligible.
     
  2. It helps you compare. One of the hardest things about choosing health insurance is figuring out which option will provide the best value for you. Enroll UX 2014 uses information about your prescriptions, current health care providers, and health needs to give you the most helpful information about the plans you qualify for: how much you would need to pay for your prescriptions, how many doctors are available in your area, and whether the plan's network includes your current providers.
     
  3. It asks only questions that apply to you. Smart online applications use your answers to previous questions to decide which questions apply to you. Instead of asking every possible question, Enroll UX uses information you've already provided to move you through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible. For example, if there are three people in the family but you indicate that only two need coverage at the beginning of the application, you'll only be asked for information about those who need coverage.
     
  4. It charts your progress through the application. The application designers paid close attention to not just how the application works, but how applicants feel about the process. It's the little things like brief introductions to each section, and a list of what you will need, estimates of how long each step will take, and a sidebar charting your progress that keep the application process feeling manageable.
     
  5. There's help available every step of the way. Finding the right health coverage is very important, and many applicants will have questions along the way. In addition to helpful explanations throughout the application, the Enroll UX application offers the opportunity to chat online or by phone with a customer service representative or connect in-person with an application assister in your area.

In short, the UX 2014 template demystifies the enrollment process and gives consumers the tools they need to enroll in the best coverage options for them. This user-friendly application template is available to any state that wants to use it to help the millions of Americans who will be getting quality, affordable coverage in 2014. Now it will just be up to states to take advantage of these free resources to make their own online application as user-friendly as possible.

But don’t take my word for it-try it out yourself!