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Coordinating Medicaid and SNAP Renewals Can Help Participants and States

About three-quarters of households receiving SNAP (formerly food stamps) in 2014 also had at least one member on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  As our new report shows, this overlap gives states an opportunity to coordinate how people periodically renew their eligibility for these programs to reduce burdens on both participants and state eligibility workers. 

Coordinating Medicaid and SNAP renewals lets states continue benefits for eligible participants by leveraging available information and avoiding duplicative requests for documents.  It lowers the risk that eligible participants will lose benefits because a form wasn’t returned or processed and have to reapply for benefits.  This process, known as churn, is costly for participants (who go without needed assistance) and for state agencies (which must process new applications).

Through interviews and site visits with agencies administering these programs, we identified four strategies that states can use to streamline operations and help eligible families maintain their benefits:

  1. Using SNAP income data for Medicaid renewals.  States can use data gathered for a household’s SNAP renewal to renew its Medicaid coverage even before the Medicaid renewal is due.  In addition, when a Medicaid renewal does come due, states can use income information in the SNAP file to complete the Medicaid renewal without requiring additional information from the participant.
  2. Aligning renewal processes when SNAP and Medicaid are due at the same time.  When Medicaid and SNAP renewals are due at the same time, states can align their notices and procedures to maximize coordination and minimize participant confusion.
  3. Streamlined Enrollment.  This option allows states to renew Medicaid eligibility for a certain subset of SNAP households automatically, based on the fact that they receive SNAP. 
  4. Express Lane Eligibility.  This option allows states to renew Medicaid for children using information gathered from other low-income programs such as SNAP.

As states modernize their benefit delivery systems and implement other changes that health reform has brought about, it’s an important time to reexamine the coordination of Medicaid and SNAP renewals.  This will take time and collaboration across agencies, but the potential improvements make the effort well worth it.