The tradeoffs of simplicity, Obamacare edition

Sarah Kliff's got the new, slimmed-down Obamacare application. Where the draft form was a hefty 21 pages, the new form is a svelte 5 pages.

Well, kind of.

The original form was lengthy because it included the forms for a family of six. If you were a single adult, you just ignored most of those pages.

The new form is short because it's only for a single adult. But if you head to the HHS Web site, you can find the new form for family coverage. It, too, is shorter: A mere 12 pages rather than 21. But it only includes the forms for ... two people. If your family includes more than two people, the form advises you to "make a copy of Step 2: Person 2 (pages 4 and 5) and complete."

The result is that the new form for a family of six is 20 pages long and includes a substantial amount of time spent in front of a copier.

So the new form really is less intimidating for single adults, who now get an application catering to them. But it's a bigger pain in the neck for a family of four, who now get an application catering to families of two — and to a media that equates fewer pages with better forms and laws. As larger families will now find out, shorter and simpler are not actually synonyms.

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Sarah Kliff · April 30, 2013