The Application Process For TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Dallas, Texas


TANF/FSP/Medicaid. In Dallas, the receptionists screen the completed applications to determine eligibility for expedited food stamps and emergency Medicaid. If applicants do not appear eligible for expedited services, they receive an eligibility interview appointment for some time in the next two to three weeks. One Dallas office visited for this study holds “group appointments” for eligibility interviews because of staffing shortages and the need to process all applications in a timely manner. Appointment notices mark the date of the interview, instruct applicants to arrive at the office by 8:00 a.m., and state that applicants would be seen on a first come, first served basis. Staff noted that the line starts forming by 7:00 a.m. and all eligibility interviews are typically completed by early afternoon. Those that do not check in by 8:15 a.m. are considered “no-shows” and can either contact the office to reschedule an appointment or could wait until the end of the day to see if an interview slot had opened.

The TANF/FSP/Medicaid application process in Dallas reflects and reinforces the high priority Texas places on fraud prevention and quality control. Both TANF and food stamp applicants must be finger imaged, either before or after the eligibility interview, as part of the application process. Following the eligibility interview, TANF applicants are required to participate in a Workforce Orientation if it appears that they will be required to participate in TANF work activities. The orientation is not held within the welfare office, although applicants have to return to the welfare office with proof of participation before benefits can be authorized. Accommodations are not routinely made for non-English speakers — they must attend orientation if they appear to be work mandatory TANF applicants, even if it is held in English and no interpreter is available.

Medicaid/SCHIP. Medicaid/SCHIP applications are typically handled through a mail-in application process — roughly three-quarters of SCHIP applicants enroll by mail. Similar to Virginia, applications are mailed directly to a private contractor that serves as the state’s SCHIP enrollment broker. Individuals seeking application assistance can utilize the services of local outreach workers, and receive help by phone from the private enrollment broker’s help-line. Completed applications are screened first for Medicaid, and then for SCHIP. If eligible for SCHIP, the family is sent an enrollment packet; if eligible for Medicaid, the application information is forwarded to the local welfare office that, until January 2002, had to arrange face-to-face eligibility interviews for all Medicaid applicants.18 Those who do not use the mail-in application enrollment option can apply for SCHIP at county welfare offices or other sites, primarily hospitals or clinics, where welfare workers are outstationed. If a family applying for Medicaid is determined ineligible due to income, the application is forwarded to the private contractor to determine SCHIP eligibility.

Most Medicaid-only applications taken at the area’s largest public hospital (Parkland Hospital) are for deliveries and other obstetrics, and the majority of these are emergency Medicaid for undocumented women. The welfare agency has Medicaid eligibility workers out-stationed at the hospital but this unit was short-staffed at the time of our visit. Hospital financial counselors conduct an initial financial screening and assist patients that appear Medicaid-eligible with the Medicaid application before referring them to the out-stationed Medicaid unit. Although this division of labor somewhat eases the out-stationed Medicaid unit’s workload, screenings and eligibility determination interviews cannot always be carried out on the same day and, until January 2002, applicants often made an additional trip to the hospital later in the week for their face-to-face eligibility interview.

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