Senate considers merging applications for MassHealth, food stamps

The Senate Ways and Means Committee in Massachusetts has included a proposal in its version of the state budget, which is being debated this week, to spend $1 million to create a common application for MassHealth (Medicaid) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits by July 1, 2017, and to incorporate subsidized housing benefits a year later. The budget would appropriate $1.9 million for new caseworkers to help with enrollment in public benefits programs.

Currently, there are around 1.35 million MassHealth members potentially eligible for SNAP benefits, but only 785,000 SNAP recipients, according to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

Dr. Deborah Frank, founder and principal investigator of Children’s HealthWatch at Boston Medical Center, which researches children’s health, said providing easier access to food assistance through the common application will also improve health, by addressing hunger and allowing people to buy more nutritious food.

“In the long run, it will lower health care costs by improving health,” Frank said. “It will also place many fewer bureaucratic barriers between families and getting what they need.”

Frank said a common application, which can be filled out at a hospital, would also allow people to apply for food assistance with less stigma than if they have to go to a welfare office.

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