Medicaid is making headlines as a star in the rocky roll out of the new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act. That people are eager to sign-up for expanded Medicaid coverage is not a surprise – these low-income families are the ones who have historically faced the biggest barriers to affordable coverage. And there’s even more good news when it comes to enrolling eligible but uninsured families into coverage: a handful of states are quickly enrolling certain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants into Medicaid.
We know most households who qualify for SNAP have incomes that will also qualify them for Medicaid. Since the state has already verified their income and other eligibility criteria for SNAP, it seems duplicative to require a whole new application for Medicaid. Why not enroll those who qualify straight into Medicaid, as long as they consent? Thanks to a state option outlined by CMS last May, West Virginia, Oregon, Illinois, and Arkansas are doing just that. This has allowed tens of thousands of low-income families to enroll directly into coverage, bypassing the more time-consuming enrollment websites.
For example, Oregon has sent out notices to 260,000 people enrolled in the state’s SNAP program informing them that based on their income they pre-qualify for Medicaid. All they have to do is make a phone call or send a form consenting to be enrolled. So far, 62,000 low-income Oregonians have done just that. This action alone has cut Oregon’s uninsured rate by 10 percent!
Not only does this help quickly and efficiently enroll thousands of low-income families into much-needed coverage, it also helps relieve over-burdened marketplaces and Medicaid offices from the administrative work involved in processing full applications for all these enrollees. Moreover, reducing this administrative burden is a two-way street: both state agencies and families applying for coverage have to deal with less paperwork. There’s also potential for SNAP data to be used for recertification of currently enrolled families. We know that millions of kids leave Medicaid and CHIP because of challenges in the recertification process—even though they are still eligible. Reducing the amount of paperwork families have to provide increases kids’ chances of staying enrolled.
Think your state would appreciate this administrative relief and a boost in its coverage rate? Though it is time-limited, this option doesn’t expire until the end of 2015. It’s not too late for other states to take advantage of it. Talk to your state’s Medicaid and SNAP agencies and urge them to implement this strategy in your state!