Protecting the most vulnerable Ohioans and vital taxpayer dollars is paramount to a plan put forth to reduce fraud in the Buckeye State’s food stamp and Medicaid benefits programs.
Republican Reps. Michael Henne and Robert McColley of Clayton and Napoleon, respectively, introduced last week House Bill 119 which calls for quarterly review of beneficiary eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and Medicaid.
“Every dollar of benefits paid to ineligible recipients is a dollar taken away from someone that needs it,” Henne said to prospective supporters of the bill in 132nd General Assembly of the Ohio Legislature.
Henne characterized the current verification practice as “limited,” and reliant on self reporting of any changes throughout the year that may affect a beneficiary’s eligibility.
“Often changes go unreported,” he said. “This legislation would require both programs to verify eligibility quarterly and to expand the areas in which they check,” including:
- Earned and unearned income;
- Employment status and changes in employment;
- Immigration status;
- State residency;
- Enrollment in other state-administered public assistance programs, in and out of state;
- Financial resources;
- Lottery winnings;
- Incarceration status;
- Death records; and
- Any information available related to identity fraud or identity theft.
Under HB 119, the Department of Job and Family Services shall require an applicant, or applicant’s parent or caretaker, to complete an identity authentication process before awarding benefits to confirm that the applicant, or person on whose behalf the applicant is acting, owns the identity presented in the application.
The process shall include a knowledge-based quiz consisting of personal questions and, to the extent possible based on finances and established credit history, financial questions, the bill details.
Any authentication process must attempt to accommodate nonbanked or underbanked applicants who do not have an established credit history.
Additionally, the quiz shall be available for completion by applicants in-person, over the telephone, and online.
Beneficiaries are granted due process consideration in the event a question about eligibility arises.
“If the department receives information which questions an enrollee’s eligibility, the individual must be given notification, and procedures will be in place to allow them to challenge the findings before any changes to benefits are made,” Henne said. “If fraud is discovered, the department shall refer the case for investigation to the county prosecutor.”
Another provision of HB 119 would allow Job and Family Services to contract with a third party to verify eligibility if the contract produces more savings than the cost to administer.
“Many of these changes have been initiated in other states and proven very successful in correcting errors and weeding out fraud in the system,” Henne said. “This is not about removing benefits from the ones who truly need assistance, the very people welfare programs were created to help.
“Instead, it protects the most vulnerable and taxpayer dollars from those no longer eligible but who remain in the system.”
HB 119 has received support broad support among Republicans — 12 House members signed on as cosponsors of the measure, joining a single senator.
The bill had not been referred to a committee for hearing as of publication.