Lifeline Program

This low-cost phone and Internet program wastes millions in federal funding, auditors say, By Brian Fung, June 29, 2017, Washington Post: “A federal program designed to help millions of low-income Americans afford phone and Internet service is riddled with fraud and abuse, with at least $137 million a year going to ineligible, fake or dead people, according to government auditors. The explosive report Thursday from the Government Accountability Office shows that despite efforts to rein in abuse of the sprawling Lifeline program, which serves 12.3 million subscribers on Medicaid, food stamps or other benefits, many recipients of the $9.25-a-month credit are violating program rules…”

State Benefit Program Eligibility Checks

What happens when states go hunting for welfare fraud, By Jen Fifield, May 24, 2017, Stateline: “By the time Illinois decided to crack down on Medicaid fraud in 2012, state officials knew that many people enrolled in the program probably weren’t eligible. For years, caseworkers hadn’t had the time or resources to check. To catch up, the state hired a private contractor to identify people who might not be eligible for the low-income health program and to make recommendations for whose benefits should be canceled. Within about a year, Illinois had canceled benefits for nearly 150,000 people whose eligibility could not be verified — and saved an estimated $70 million…”

SNAP Eligibility – New Hampshire

Bill could drastically change eligibility for food stamps in N.H., By Ella Nilsen, February 21, 2017, Concord Monitor: “A new bill that would change the requirements to get food stamps in New Hampshire could have dramatic impact on the welfare program.  Depending on whom you ask, it’s either needed reform or a devastating move that could throw 17,000 people in the state off food assistance.  The bill, introduced by state Sen. Kevin Avard, a Republican from Nashua, would change the way the state’s Department of Health and Human Services evaluates families for the food stamp program, requiring them to use federal limits for food stamp eligibility.  The legislation also requires individuals receiving food stamps to pay their child support…”

Welfare Reform – Wisconsin

Scott Walker: Parents should work 80 hours per month to get food stamps, By Molly Beck, January 24, 2017, Wisconsin State Journal: “Gov. Scott Walker wants parents who receive food stamps to work at least 80 hours per month to continue to receive full benefits.  Walker made the announcement Monday in appearances around the state promoting changes dubbed ‘Wisconsin Works for Everyone’ that he plans to make to the state’s welfare programs.  One component would require parents with school-age children living at home to work to continue to receive full benefits through the state’s food stamp program known as FoodShare…”

Cliff Effect of Public Assistance Programs

$15 minimum wage could squeeze workers on public assistance, By Katie Johnson, December 9, 2016, Boston Globe: “If it succeeds, a campaign to raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $15 an hour could put more money in the pockets of low-income workers and create a path to self-sufficiency. But for some families, the boost in pay could mean a drop of hundreds of dollars a month in government benefits.  Food stamps, child care vouchers, and rent subsidies could be cut before families can afford to cover those expenses on their own, leaving some households, particularly single parents with young children, worse off despite a bigger paycheck — a phenomenon known as the ‘cliff effect…””

Medicaid Expansion – Louisiana

Louisiana first state to use food stamp data for Medicaid expansion, By Kevin Litten, May 06, 2016, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Louisiana has gotten federal approval to use data from food stamp applications to qualify people for Medicaid, the first state in the country to use such a method. The approach will allow the Department of Health and Hospitals to automatically qualify tens of thousands of people for the state’s expansion of Medicaid, the federally funded health care program for the poor. It will also reduce the workload for DHH and its contractors as they begin signing up as many as 375,000 people over the next several months for the program that’s now being branded as ‘Healthy Louisiana…'”

Public Benefit Program Application and Eligibility

How 10 text messages can help families find out if they qualify for food stamps, By Max Lewontin, February 16, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “A new texting-based system aims to simplify the process of applying for food stamps in Alaska, where 27 percent of people who are eligible for a common federal program that helps people buy food they need aren’t getting the benefits because they haven’t applied, state officials say.  Using text-based prompts, the system lets families see whether they would qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in a series of 10 text messages, compared with a 28-page application that they would ordinary have to fill out…”

National School Lunch Program

Obama’s plan to give free lunches to millions more kids, By Roberto A. Ferdman, January 27, 2016, Washington Post: “The Obama administration will announce new plans Wednesday to launch a pilot program aimed at increasing poor children’s access to food through the National School Lunch Program. The pilot program will allow participating states to use Medicaid data to automatically certify students for free and reduced-price school lunches. Currently, families have to submit an application — a laborious process for parents and a costly one for schools — even when they have already proven that they are income-eligible through their participation in other government assistance programs…”

Medicaid Coverage Gap – Missouri

Failure to expand Medicaid impacts thousands in Ozarks, By Jon Swedien, Springfield News-Leader: “Looking back over the past year, Terri McCulloch said she was like one of the living dead. The 52-year-old said a thyroid condition had rendered her sick and unable to work. And in the wake of a recent divorce, she was left scrambling for a new place to live and without the health insurance…”

Cliff Effect of Public Assistance Programs

Why getting ahead often feels like falling behind when you’re poor, By Megan Verlee, November 3, 2015, Colorado Public Radio: “Call it poverty’s ‘glass ceiling.’ The way many public benefit programs are structured, even minor increases in income can result in a big loss in assistance. That’s sometimes so large a loss that it can send families tumbling backwards just when they thought they were finally getting ahead. Longmont resident Tracey Jones knows all about the phenomenon, often called the ‘cliff effect.’ She’s been living at its edge for several years now…”

SNAP Recipients and Benefit Renewal – New York City

Navigating a bureaucratic maze to renew food stamp benefits, By Winnie Hu, July 23, 2015, New York Times: “Three months after Delbert Shorter’s food stamps were cut off, he still does not know why. At first, he thought that his $180 a month allotment from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called SNAP or food stamps, was just late. But as one week turned into another, Mr. Shorter, 78, who lives in a fifth-floor walk-up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, grew more anxious, and hungrier. He stockpiled canned foods from a church food pantry, borrowed $60 from his home health aide and turned to a senior center to help get his food stamps back. ‘It’s very hard,’ he said. ‘If I knew it was really going to come, I would not have to worry about the next meal.’  Even as New York City has embarked on a campaign to increase access to food stamps in recent months, Mr. Shorter’s plight illustrates the barriers that remain for those who are already enrolled…”

SNAP Eligibility System – Massachusetts

As Massachusetts food stamp agency tries to fix flaws, experienced welfare workers retire, By Shira Schoenberg, July 10, 2015, MassLive: “Massachusetts welfare officials promised the federal government that they will take steps to correct problems with the state’s food stamp program, including hiring more staff. However, the food stamp program just lost around 11 percent of its staff to an early retirement incentive…”

Rules for Private Medicaid Plans

  • ‘Milestone’ rules would limit profits, score quality for Medicaid plans, By Jay Hancock, May 27, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Sweeping proposals disclosed Tuesday would create profit guidelines for private Medicaid plans as well as new standards for the plans’ doctor and hospital networks and rules to coordinate Medicaid insurance more closely with other coverage.  ‘We are taking steps to align how these programs work,’ said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which proposed the rules.  Privatized Medicaid has grown rapidly as budget-pinched states have responded to commercial insurers’ promise to deliver care for a fixed price. Most beneficiaries of Medicaid — state programs for the poor run partly with federal dollars — now get care through contracted insurers…”
  • Pennsylvania moves to keep pace with increase in Medicaid, By Bill Toland, May 29, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “With Medicaid enrollment growing nationally and in Pennsylvania, the federal government is proposing new oversight of privately administered Medicaid plans, tightening profit guidelines for insurers and keeping a closer eye on doctor availability for patients.  Participation in Medicaid, the state-run health insurance plan for the poor and disabled, has grown by about 10 million in the U.S. over the last 18 months, an increase driven by federal subsidies and the broad income-based eligibility expansion included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

$25 ATM limit for Kansas welfare recipients may violate federal law, By Lindsay Wise and Dion Lefler, May 16, 2015, Wichita Eagle: “A first-of-its-kind provision that prevents welfare recipients in Kansas from withdrawing more than $25 a day from an ATM might violate federal law – and could jeopardize the state’s federal funding if not amended. The Social Security Act requires states to ensure that recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, ‘have adequate access to their cash assistance’ and can withdraw money ‘with minimal fees or charges.’  At stake is about $102 million in TANF block grant money that Kansas receives every year from the federal government.  The ATM limit was added as an amendment to a welfare overhaul bill signed in April by Gov. Sam Brownback…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

Bill tightening restrictions on welfare recipients advances in Kansas Senate, By Bryan Lowry, April 2, 2015, Wichita Eagle: “The Kansas Senate is moving forward with a bill that limits people to 36 months of welfare benefits, bans repeat drug offenders from food assistance for life and restricts the amount recipients can withdraw from an ATM using a welfare benefits card.  Senators passed HB 2258 by voice vote Wednesday after a heated debate that lasted most of the day. The bill will be up for a final vote Thursday and is expected to pass easily. The bill makes changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, commonly called welfare, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps. The programs are federally funded but administered by the states…”

Long-Term Impacts of Medicaid

Study: Medicaid-eligible children pay more in taxes as adults, By Amanda Cuda, January 12, 2015, Stamford Advocate: “Children of the 1980s who were eligible for expanded Medicaid benefits in their youth paid more in taxes as adults, according to a new study from Yale University. The study also showed that these same people were more likely to attend college and less likely to die prematurely in adulthood than peers who weren’t eligible for benefits. For some advocates, the research supports what they have long believed about providing Medicaid to vulnerable populations…”

Health Care Exchanges

Competition heats up on health care exchanges for 2015, By Jayne O’Donnell and Kaitlyn Krasselt, USA Today: “Insurance companies are gingerly moving onto health care exchanges in some competition-deprived states, and they are requesting rate increases that are largely in line with pre-Obamacare years, state filings show. A few big and many smaller insurers avoided the 2014 state- and federal-run health care exchanges that sold individual insurance plans as required under the new law. Some blame these insurer absences for higher rates than many people expected under the Affordable Care Act, but that’s likely to change for the 2015 plan year, experts say. ‘There’s a lot more competition now than there was prior to the advent of the ACA . . .”

Public Assistance Eligibility

  • Legislation restricting food stamps, welfare advancesBy Michelle Millhollon, May 21, 2014, New Orleans Advocate: “Welfare recipients would be unable to use their federal benefits at liquor stores, nail salons, bars, cruise ships and psychic businesses under legislation that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday. The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare also tackled food stamp recipients. The panel advanced legislation that would cut off grocery assistance for Tangipahoa Parish residents without small children unless they seek an education or job training. House Bill 1176 would put into state law what already exists in state rules. Welfare benefits aren’t supposed to be used for the purchase of alcohol. . .”
  • Rejecting Bloomberg Policies, New York City Will Ease Some Hurdles to Public AssistanceBy Kate Taylor, May 19, 2014, New York Times: “The new commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration on Monday announced a set of sweeping changes that would remove some work requirements and other barriers to receiving public assistance, cheering advocates for the poor and underscoring the sharp change in direction by Mayor Bill de Blasio away from the welfare policies of his predecessor. In the most significant change announced by the commissioner, Steven Banks, adults without children will no longer have to work full-time to receive food stamps. In addition, the city will start a pilot program to allow people receiving welfare up to five excused absences from their employment programs for illness or family emergency. The agency will also create a system to make calls or send text messages reminding welfare recipients of appointments. . .”
  • Missouri Legislature passes bill lifting lifetime ban from food stamps for drug felonsBy Marie French, May 15, 2014, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “An 18-year-old ban that keeps anyone with a drug-related felony conviction from receiving food assistance from the state would be lifted under a bill sent to Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday. The measure lifts the lifetime ban but imposes a one-year wait after a conviction or release from custody. It also requires that the individual either not need a treatment program, complete one or be on a waiting list. After three drug-related felonies, they would no longer be eligible for food stamps. Christine McDonald, of St. Charles, has been advocating for the state to change the program for more than five years. She is a recovered drug addict who is also blind. She now works to help former prostitutes like herself and runs a charity. . .”

Assistance Programs and Drug Testing

Some states still pushing drug testing for welfare, By Jake Grovum, March 6, 2014, Stateline: “From written tests designed to flag drug users to singling out people with recent drug convictions, state lawmakers across the country are pursuing novel strategies to deny welfare benefits to drug users without running afoul of a recent federal court ruling. In December, a federal judge in Florida struck down the state’s drug-test requirement. But almost half the states are considering drug-testing bills designed to withstand legal scrutiny. In Alabama, Indiana and Mississippi, such measures already have advanced by overwhelming majorities…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs – Minnesota

Drug tests of welfare recipients prove costly, By Chris Serres, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “A new state law designed to prevent drug users from receiving welfare benefits could end up costing taxpayers far more than it saves, while inadvertently denying assistance to poor families simply because they are unable to comply with its complex paperwork. Like a recent wave of drug-testing laws passed in other states, Minnesota’s legislation was touted as a way to encourage greater responsibility among welfare recipients while saving taxpayers money. But many county officials and advocacy groups say the reality is quite different: The law contains a bevy of costly local mandates and complicated rules that apply to just a tiny fraction of the 167,000 Minnesotans receiving welfare and other cash benefits…”