(USA TODAY) -- After months of jokes about the new form for the health insurance marketplaces being longer than the 2010 health care law, the government has released a new, "short" three-page form, down from 21 pages.
A second form for families has been reduced by two-thirds, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
"Consumers will have a simple, easy-to-understand way to apply for health coverage later this year," said Centers for Medicare acting administrator Marilyn Tavenner. "The application for individuals is now three pages, making it easier to use and significantly shorter than industry standards."
Beginning October 1, consumers will be able to buy insurance online through websites that allow them to compare prices and benefits of several plans. They also will be able to apply for subsidies that will be applied directly toward the cost of those plans.
People who make less than four times the federal poverty level - or about $92,000 for a family of four - will be eligible for help. Insurance through the health marketplaces will be available January 1 because of the Affordable Care Act.
The three-page form is for use by single adults with no dependents who do not have health insurance and would like help paying for it. A second, 12-page, six-step form has been released for everybody else who needs coverage and wants to see if they're eligible for subsidies. But although the longer form has 12 pages, many of them include multiple graphics, white space and large lettering - and look nothing like insurance forms of old made gray with lines and lines of tiny type.
A five-page form will be available for those who want coverage but need no financial assistance.
An online version of the form will further shorten the application based on a person's answers, according to an HHS news release.