Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, applying for benefits could be as daunting as doing income taxes.

The government’s draft application runs 15 pages for a three-person family. An outline version has 21 steps, some with additional questions.

Just six months before the October 1, 2013 start of enrollment season for millions of uninsured Americans, the idea that getting health insurance could be as easy as shopping online at Amazon or Travelocity is starting to look like wishful thinking.

At least three major federal agencies, including the IRS, will scrutinize applications. Checking identity, income and citizenship is supposed to happen in real time, if applying online.

That’s just the first part of the process, which lets a person know if they qualify for for financial help. The government asks income questions because PPACA is means-tested, with lower-income people getting the most generous help to pay premiums.

Once finished with the money part, actually choosing a health plan will require additional steps, plus a basic understanding of insurance jargon by an independent insurance agent.

HINT: Even better than waiting until October 1, 2013, get coverage now. With insurance underwriting, it could save premium dollars.

The government process is a mandate, not a suggestion. The law says virtually all Americans must carry health insurance starting next year, although most will just keep the coverage they now have through employment, including Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

It is a concern that a lot of uninsured people will be overwhelmed and simply give up.

The lengthy draft application will take a considerable amount of time to fill out and will be difficult for many people to complete.

The online application will take 30 minutes, on average, and the paper application is estimated to take an average of 45 minutes.

Uninsured people will apply through new state-based markets, also called exchanges. And the new coverage starts January 1, 2014.

Middle-class people will be eligible for tax credits to help pay for private insurance plans, while low-income people will be advised to safety-net programs like Medicaid.

Health and Human Services estimates receiving more than 4.3 million applications for financial assistance in 2014, with online applications accounting for about 80 percent. Because families can apply together, the government estimates 16 million people will be served.

Here are some pros and cons on how the system is shaping up:

PRO: If applying online, near-instantaneous verification is available. An online government clearinghouse called the Data Services Hub will ping Social Security for birth records, IRS income data and Homeland Security for immigration status.

CON: If household income has changed in the past year and help is needed to pay premiums, some extra work will be involved. Help is based on expected income in 2014, but the latest tax returns are for 2012. More documentation must be provided.

PRO: Even with all the complexity, the new system could end up more simplified thanks to public input. There is no medical questionnaire, although a disability needs to be disclosed. And even if disabled, coverage is still available for the same premium as someone not disabled.

CON:If anyone in a household is offered health insurance on the job but does not take it, there will be some particularly head-scratching questions. For example: “What’s the name of the lowest cost self-only health plan the employee listed above could enroll in at this job?”

The process should help people make apples-to-apples comparisons of costs and coverage between health insurance plans and learn if there is any break in costs.

What if a person just wants to buy health insurance in their state’s exchange, and they are not interested in getting any help from the government?

An application still must be completed, but it’s shorter.