Supporting Families in Transition: A Guide to Expanding Health Coverage in the Post-Welfare Reform World. C. Mandatory Application and Enrollment Policies


  • Opportunity to apply. Medicaid regulations (42 CFR 435.906) require states to provide the opportunity for families to apply for Medicaid without delay. When states use joint TANF-Medicaid applications or use the state TANF agency to make Medicaid eligibility determinations, the TANF office is considered a Medicaid office. Therefore, TANF offices in these states must furnish the joint application (or a separate Medicaid application) immediately upon request and may not impose a waiting period before providing the application for Medicaid or processing it. These Medicaid requirements also apply to CHIP programs that are Medicaid expansions, and states are encouraged to apply them in the same manner for non-Medicaid CHIP programs as well.

    In states where the TANF application or eligibility is delayed (i.e., because families receive diversionary assistance, are required to conduct an up-front job search, or face any other initial administrative steps), the state must make a separate Medicaid application available immediately, or make the joint application available immediately for purposes of determining Medicaid eligibility. The evaluation of the Medicaid application and the Medicaid eligibility determination must be made by state personnel who are authorized to perform these functions.

  • Time frame for eligibility determination. Federal regulations (42 CFR 435.911) require that Medicaid eligibility for most families and children must be determined within 45 days from the date of application. The date that a TANF-Medicaid application is filed begins the 45-day "clock" for Medicaid eligibility determination. While a few limited exceptions to the 45-day time frame are allowed, such as an administrative or other emergency beyond the state's control, a TANF requirement may not delay a Medicaid eligibility determination. For example, when a family applies for Medicaid and TANF through a joint application but does not qualify for TANF assistance because of a TANF requirement that does not relate to Medicaid (e.g., the living arrangements for teens), the state must make a timely determination of Medicaid eligibility based on the joint application.

    States may grant Medicaid eligibility retroactive to the date of application, or to the first day of the month of application. Eligibility must be granted three months retroactive to the month of application if the applicant received services during that period and would have been eligible at the time the services were furnished.

  • Exhaust all avenues to eligibility before denial or termination. Because Medicaid eligibility is not based on TANF eligibility, states may not deny Medicaid eligibility to a family or any family member simply because the family is ineligible for TANF due to employment, time limits, sanctions, or any other reason. Nor can a state deny Medicaid eligibility because a family member loses eligibility under a particular Medicaid eligibility category. Further, it is not acceptable for a state to deny joint applications and then advise families to reapply if they think they may be eligible under another Medicaid category. States are prohibited from denying or terminating Medicaid eligibility unless all possible avenues to Medicaid eligibility have been affirmatively explored and exhausted.

    Since Medicaid eligibility for families no longer hinges on eligibility for welfare, and since Medicaid generally covers a broader group of children and families than may be eligible for TANF, some or all members of a family that fails to meet TANF eligibility criteria are likely to be eligible for Medicaid. There are many possible avenues to Medicaid eligibility for family members denied or terminated from TANF assistance, including the Section 1931 group (depending on family income and other state eligibility rules for the group), poverty-level groups, and transitional Medicaid.

  • Medicaid denial notice and appeal rights. Federal regulations (42 CFR, Part 431, Subpart E and 42 CFR 435.912) require that applicants who are denied Medicaid eligibility or individuals who are terminated from Medicaid receive timely notices informing them of the denial, the reasons for the denial, and their appeal rights. With very few exceptions Medicaid coverage for current recipients continues during an appeal. These rights apply to all Medicaid denials and terminations, including those that flow from joint TANF-Medicaid applications.

    When a family applies for Medicaid and TANF through a joint application and the family does not qualify for TANF, the denial notice should inform the family that the TANF denial does not mean the family is ineligible for Medicaid.

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