CMS Announces Options for States to Facilitate Enrollment in the Medicaid Expansion
States will now be able to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) data to facilitate enrollment in the Medicaid expansion, according to guidance released last month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Analyzing SNAP data to identify potential enrollees is just one of several strategies states can begin now to streamline the enrollment transition later this year. On May 17, CMS released a list of five options states can use to ensure that low-income people get and keep Medicaid coverage when the new enrollment system opens in October 2013. The consumer advocacy group Families USA has released a summary of the five options:
- Make an early switch to the new way of determining eligibility. The Affordable Care Act calls for a new eligibility determination system and one streamlined application for Medicaid, CHIP, and the premium tax credits to apply for coverage in state health insurance marketplaces. States can use this application starting October 2013 to sign people up for coverage that will start in January. However, some of those who apply for coverage from October through December will already be eligible for Medicaid and do not need to wait until January to get covered. Instead of having to use their old applications to determine eligibility for this group of applicants, states can make an early switch to the new application.
- Push back Medicaid renewals. To help states deal with the expected flood of new applicants, states can now push the required renewal dates for those already enrolled in Medicaid coverage until after the extremely busy open enrollment period is over on March 31, 2014. This will allow them to focus on enrolling new applicants at the very beginning of the year.
- Enroll people in Medicaid using SNAP information. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps) benefits are available to people with incomes below 130 percent of the federal poverty level ($30,600 for a family of four). Because the Medicaid eligibility level is 138 percent of poverty ($32,500 for a family of four) for all children and for adults in states that expand Medicaid, most people receiving SNAP will also be eligible for Medicaid. States can use this information to enroll eligible people in Medicaid.
- Use information on children’s eligibility to enroll parents. The majority of states already offer Medicaid coverage for kids in families with incomes of up to 133 percent of poverty ($31,300 for a family of four). States can use that information to determine the eligibility of parents and provide them with an easy way to enroll.
- Provide 12-month continuous eligibility for adults. Since eligibility for coverage in Medicaid depends on a person’s income, changes in income throughout the year can affect eligibility―sometimes referred to as “churning.” This can be resolved through continuous eligibility, which ensures a full year of coverage despite income changes.
The enrollment period for Medicaid expansion and the state health insurance exchanges will begin October 1, 2013.