CBPP’s New Toolkit Will Help States Prepare for Eligibility Changes Under Health Reform

By Shelby Gonzales, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

There’s a lot to look forward to as states prepare for health reform.  Not only will millions of low- and moderate-income people gain access to affordable health coverage, but new systems and processes will make it easier for people to apply for and renew Medicaid and CHIP coverage.

These changes also have the potential to affect how low-income people apply for other benefits like food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) and child care subsidies.  At CBPP we have developed a toolkit to help states implement health reform’s new rules for Medicaid and CHIP eligibility while also considering how they deliver other services and benefits.

Our toolkit’s seven modules will help states and stakeholders tackle key questions, such as:

* For low-income families, how will states structure their major activities across programs, such as accepting applications, processing eligibility and benefits, and answering questions?

* How will low-income families who apply for health coverage through the state’s online application be connected to other human services programs and benefits?

* When low-income families apply for health coverage and qualify for Medicaid, will there be a process to help connect them to other benefits and services for which they might be eligible?

* Who will have access to which programs’ application and verification systems?  Will information in one program be used to verify eligibility or update information for another program?

* When work is shared across tasks, or among agencies or programs, how will hand-offs work and how will accountability be maintained?

The toolkit includes materials that will be useful to a wide range of stakeholders who are interested in Medicaid eligibility and enrollment.  It includes comparisons of the federal Medicaid and SNAP rules and requirements on applications, verifications and renewals; comparisons of how income is counted under SNAP and Medicaid’s new MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income) methodology; and information on different data sources that states can use to verify information from families.

The toolkit also has exercises that will help states assess their current application and enrollment processes, and think about how to implement the ACA in a way that connects families with all the services they need.