The Application Process For TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Seattle, Washington


TANF/FSP/Medicaid. As of July 2001, the application process in the Seattle/Kent office was the most straightforward of all the study sites. In a single day, English proficient applicants could submit an application for benefits and complete an eligibility interview.15 The same day eligibility appointment was not an option for limited English speakers requiring interpretation assistance because scheduling the off-site interpreters contracted for this purpose requires a few days’ advance notice. Subsequent to our visit, the Seattle/Kent office has shifted to scheduling eligibility interviews on the day following application submission and adopted an enhanced intake process similar to the one used in the Seattle/Rainier office (described below).

The Seattle/Rainier office offers an enhanced screening at initial reception/intake, designed to increase administrative efficiency and decrease client burden. Experienced eligibility workers are assigned to provide screenings and customer assistance. These “information referral specialists” work alongside receptionist/intake clerks at the front desk. They handle many tasks normally requiring the attention of an eligibility worker but that can be dispensed with quickly and do not actually require a formal appointment or a full eligibility interview. For example, the information referral specialists handle all Medicaid applications for pregnant women and screen applications for expedited food stamps. They also answer questions, inform applicants about additional programs they might be eligible for, and handle a variety of smaller issues such as documenting changes of address. Additionally, the information referral specialists provide applicants with necessary application paperwork, schedule eligibility interviews, and inform applicants about the documents they should bring to the eligibility interview. Since the July 2001 site visit, the Seattle/Kent office added a similar enhanced intake component to their application process.

Both offices visited in Seattle further streamlined the TANF/FSP/Medicaid application process by the absence of a separate group orientation.(16) The same types of information about TANF work program rules, participation requirements, sanctions and the availability of support services provided in the larger group orientations in other sites (e.g., Arlington, Dallas, and Raleigh), as well as an initial assessment of work history and employment barriers, are covered one-on-one during the eligibility determination interview.

Medicaid/SCHIP. The state of Washington has a single integrated application process for both Medicaid and SCHIP. Individuals may apply on-line and submit applications directly to the Department of Social and Health Services. Completed applications may also be mailed to the centralized Medical Eligibility Determination Services office that serves the entire state or dropped off in person at the local welfare office. A toll-free number within the state is available to assist with filling out the application or to answer questions. If determined eligible for Medicaid, applicants are required to enroll in a managed care plan. If applicants’ income is too high, their applications are then screened for SCHIP eligibility. If the income falls within the SCHIP range, applicants are sent a letter stating that they are not eligible for Medicaid but may be eligible for SCHIP. A form requesting information about private medical insurance, and information about the monthly premium and co-pays accompanies the letter. Applicants must complete and sign this form and return it to the centralized Medical Eligibility Determination Services office. Medicaid and SCHIP application assistance is available in public health centers and community health centers throughout the Seattle area.

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