- Robert Haveman; Thomas Kaplan; Barbara Wolfe; with Sandra Barone
- July 2002
- Link to sr82 (PDF)
Subsidized medical insurance and food purchases through the Medicaid and Food Stamp programs potentially improve the health and economic well-being of low-income people, but only if eligible participants receive program benefits. Reports of low rates of take-up and decreases in Food Stamp and Medicaid participation rates following passage of welfare reform legislation in 1996 have raised concerns about the health care coverage and nutritional status of low-income people, particularly former recipients of cash welfare. This paper describes the long-term utilization of Food Stamp and Medicaid benefits for two cohorts of welfare recipients who left the cash benefit rolls in Wisconsin. The first cohort consists of those who left cash welfare in 1995 (under an early welfare reform regime); the second cohort consists of those who left welfare 2 years later, in 1997. The paper estimates both initial take-up rates (that is, participation rates among those eligible immediately after exit from cash welfare) and participation rates for extended periods after leaving the rolls. The correlates of the decision to participate in these in-kind benefit programs after ceasing to be a recipient of cash benefits are explored, and participation rates of a variety of prototypical female family heads are simulated. Participation eroded over time after exiting cash welfare in similar patterns for the two cohorts, but the overall level of take-up was substantially higher for the latter (1997) cohort of leavers. The paper also explores the likelihood that those without Medicaid coverage have other health insurance coverage, using another sample from Wisconsin.