Obamacare likely to also increase food stamp, welfare participation

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Obamacare could lead more people enrolling in assistance programs, like food stamps, cash assistance and childcare.

Obamacare’s individual mandate — which compels more people to seek out health insurance — paired with the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare has created a perfect storm for an increase in low-income assistance program participation, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions’ Senate Budget Committee staff explained to The Daily Caller this week.

“Many states use an online system to streamline the enrollment process for low-income assistance programs. After entering some information about your family structure and financial resources, these systems guide individuals through an application for a series of programs, Medicaid and [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps] included,” the staffers explained. Once people learn they are eligible for a program, they are more likely to enroll.

Individuals who enroll in Medicaid are not automatically eligible for other programs. However, their lower income levels make them more likely to be eligible for other assistance programs.

The Obama administration is aware that the president’s signature law could lead to more food stamp participation — with the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently seeking a review from the Office of Management and Budget on “a new information data collection to access the impact of implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program operations and participation.”

“ACA could potentially have a profound impact on SNAP participation among [nondisabled adults aged 19 to 64] in many ways,” FNS’ submission for review reads. “The main research objectives for this study are grouped into the following three categories: (1) Describe the coordination of SNAP and Medicaid enrollment and renewal processes in the state and whether this changes due to ACA; (2) Describe the process of directing Medicaid applicants to SNAP; and (3) Determine the impact of ACA implementation on the number of SNAP applications.”

Politico first reported about the administration’s interest in the intersection of Obamacare and SNAP on Tuesday, highlighting Greg Miller, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who is currently researching the effects Obamacare will have on food stamp participation on behalf of the USDA.

Miller told Politico that his study could find enrollment in some states increase by as much as five percent as low-income people learn of their eligibility and enroll — small percentage to be sure, but for a nearly $80 billion a year program, small percentages can mean big bucks.

To Miller, however, “this is a favorable byproduct of the Affordable Care Act, bringing people into federal programs which they are already eligible for,” he told Politico.

And according to Senate Budget Committee Republican staff, it is not just SNAP but also other assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child care and energy assistance that people signing up for Medicaid could be offered.

“This is one more policy that will replace middle class growth with welfare growth. It is one more example of why you don’t pass a 2,700 page government takeover to find out what’s in it,” Stephen Miller the Senate Budget Committee’s GOP spokesman said. “And it is one more reason why Obamacare’s promised price tag isn’t even close to its bleak reality.”

A USDA spokesperson stressed to TheDC that the ACA does not change eligibility for SNAP.

“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not change the eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” the spokesperson explained in an emailed statement. “People who are enrolled in Medicaid are not automatically eligible for the program. Any change in SNAP participation would be the result of low-income families, who have met rigorous eligibility requirements, making an informed decision to participate.”

Participation in the food stamp program, along with the cost, has skyrocketed in recent years, from an average monthly individual participation rate of 28.2 million in 2008 to 46.6 million in 2012.

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