04:02 PM

Health Care Overhaul Bill Calls For Online Enrollment

Proposed legislation calls for all Americans to have medical insurance and that everyone be able to enroll and manage their eligibility information online.

Legislation to reform America's health care system unveiled Tuesday by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) requires that all Americans have medical insurance. The bill further requires that individuals applying to state and federal health programs be able to enroll and manage their eligibility information online.

The 615-page "Affordable Health Choices Act" is the first of at least three health care reform bills expected to be unveiled soon in the Senate and the House of Representatives. President Obama has said it's a goal of his for Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation during his first year in office.

While some Democrats in the House and Senate, as well as President Obama, have said any comprehensive health care reform should include citizens having any option to participate in a new government insurance program, most Republicans oppose a government-run health care option.

Nonetheless, the legislation unveiled by Kennedy, who is chair of the HELP committee, proposes that citizens who apply for state and federal health programs should be able to do so online.

As Republicans and Democrats hammer out different health care reform proposals in the coming months, pieces of Kennedy's bill, including the information technology provisions, could become part of final legislation signed by Obama.

The Affordable Health Choices Act calls for the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Office of National Health IT, to develop "interoperable, secure, scalable, and reusable standards and protocols that facilitate enrollment of individuals in federal and state health and human services programs."

Also, the standards and protocols should allow "electronic matching against existing federal and state data, including vital records, employment history, enrollment systems, tax records, and other data determined appropriate by the Secretary to serve as evidence of eligibility and in lieu of paper-based documentation."

The legislation calls for individuals "to apply, recertify, and manage their eligibility information online, including at home, at points of service, and other community-based locations."

The bill also proposes the "Ability to expand the enrollment system to integrate new programs, rules, and functionalities, to operate at increased volume, and to apply streamlined verification and eligibility processes to other Federal and State programs, as appropriate."

Finally, the bill proposes using e-mail and cell phones to notify individuals about "eligibility, recertification, and other needed communication."

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