Making the Connection with Human Services Programs

By Guest Blogger

Most of our blog posts focus specifically on enrollment in health coverage, but as we pointed out earlier this week, opportunities to simplify enrollment in health coverage can also mean increased coordination with other human services programs. And to bring us full-circle, this can mean more ways to ensure that all eligible Americans get enrolled in health coverage.

Along these lines, the Coalition for Access and Opportunity released a new paper, How Human Services Programs and Their Clients Can Benefit from National Health Reform Legislation, written by Stan Dorn of the Urban Institute. The paper outlines how simplifying enrollment in health coverage gives human services agencies a major opportunity to modernize their systems, reduce administrative costs and error rates, improve the customer experience, and expand coverage.

As yesterday’s blog points out, the health reform law gives states enhanced federal funding to scale up and streamline enrollment in health coverage programs for a limited time. Human services programs, such as child care assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), can benefit from this opportunity because of recent guidance clarifying that the enhanced federal funding can pay for the full cost of necessary improvements to computer systems that are used by both Medicaid or the Exchanges and other programs. 

But what will systems integration between health coverage programs and other human services programs achieve? The new paper points out that many human services programs have income eligibility thresholds that are similar to Medicaid’s. In particular, many individuals who will be newly eligible for Medicaid are already receiving SNAP.  Therefore, SNAP and other programs like it could conduct data matching with their own program files to identify people who are likely eligible for Medicaid but are not yet enrolled. This could help guide targeted outreach efforts in states, which may prove to be essential considering recent research on the importance of outreach in driving enrollment. The paper also suggests that states could take this approach a step further by enrolling these people in Medicaid automatically. This could reduce states’ administrative burden and free up eligibility workers’ and Navigators’ time to handle more complex cases.

If you’re interested in learning more about these strategies and the connection between human services programs and enrollment in health coverage, we encourage you to register for a webinar on November 14th, hosted by the Coalition for Access and Opportunity. The webinar will feature Stan Dorn, the author of the paper, and Claudia Page, co-director of Social Interest Solutions, who is working with various states on these initiatives and will share promising steps and common challenges from states across the country.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Lower-Basch of the Center for Law and Social Policy for her assistance with this blog. 

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