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Maybe healthy policymakers are missing the prairie because they’re spending too much time looking at the forest.

I’m talking about the huge problems many consumers have when they try to sign up for Affordable Care Act individual exchange plan coverage because the exchange “identity proofing” systems, or identity verification systems, shut them out.

The grim truth is that, because of identity theft, ordinary wallet theft, consumer laziness, credit bureau errors and other issues, many Americans have a hard time proving who they are.

The problem is obvious, and usually temporary, when nice people show up at the airport without a photo ID.

Related: 4 ways to fight elder fraud [infographic]

The problem can be less obvious, and long lasting, when poor, lonely people without much social support lose ID cards, or the ability to renew their ID cards, or the ability to put enough distance between them and identity thieves to qualify for student loans, car loans, Social Security benefits or ACA exchange plan coverage subsidies.

It’s hard to tell how common the problem is, but social media sites are full of horror stories from people who say they are homeless, or about to be homeless, because off identity verification problems they lack the cash, time, organizational skills or knowledge to solve. Even services that claim to help people with identity theft problems often do more to provide general advice than the kind of casework tired, poor, disorganized people really need.

One obvious, simple solution would be to recruit some of the great, energetic insurance agents and brokers left unemployed, or underemployed, by the Affordable Care Act transition and use law-enforcement agency cash to pay agents to clear up people’s identity verification problems.

People like you are smart, energetic, and familiar with how to handle horrific paperwork.

Chances are you would resolve the identity problems of just about everyone who needs help within a year or two after the government started paying you to do that, but by that time, the ACA mess might be cleared up, and you could go back to making a good living selling health coverage. Possibly to former identity-fixing clients who will be in a much better position to pay for solid personal protection coverage because they will be able to show they are who they say they are. 

Allison Bell is the health channel editor for Email her at [email protected].


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