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Benefind, assistance program among topics of Glisson’s testimony before U.S. House panel

Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson testified on Capitol Hill Thursday before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition.

The subcommittee meeting was to evaluate technology and modernization in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The secretary provided an overview of Kentucky’s implementation experience with the benefind system and discussed ways to improve the integrated platform used to enroll Kentuckians in SNAP, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other federal benefits programs.

Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson

“Prior to my tenure as Secretary, the federal government strongly encouraged states, through enhanced funding, to create an integrated modular system for eligibility and enrollment,” said Glisson. “When I became Secretary, I inherited the responsibility to implement what we were led to believe was a completed, vetted and ready IT platform that would serve as an upgraded integrated eligibility and enrollment system for our health and human services programs.

“Unfortunately, there were issues with the initial rollout of benefind, which were resolved over several months through the efforts of cabinet staff and various external contractors.”

One issue Glisson shared with the committee was a requirement that benefind search the Federal Incarceration Database to determine whether a household member was currently incarcerated, which would make them ineligible for benefits. The system mailed thousands of erroneous letters to clients due to bad data in the federal database.

Glisson also discussed a SNAP policy that prohibits anyone other than a state merit employee from enrolling clients in the program. Meanwhile, Medicaid policy allows both merit employees and contractors to provide enrollment assistance.

“We have hundreds of contractors available who can assist with Medicaid eligibility applications and give information about Medicaid application status, but who are prohibited from using the exact same information to assist with SNAP applications,” said Glisson, explaining contractors cannot use the same information to determine SNAP eligibility.

“Benefind was intended to determine eligibility for all services and benefits, with one application, including SNAP and Medicaid,” the secretary continued. “FNS (Federal Nutrition Service) policy permits only state merit employees to process SNAP applications, which results in a duplication of efforts and has impeded the efficiencies expected of the system. If this policy were changed, then the system could be optimized and truly be a one-stop shot with no wrong door to enter the system.”

Glisson encouraged lawmakers to work toward addressing policies that impact efforts to integrate enrollment platforms.

“We urge the federal government to be proactive and to address these issues,” said Glisson. “Resolution of these impediments would greatly enhance our experience and cause our system to be as efficient as intended,” concluded Secretary Glisson.

The Secretary also presented committee members with a white paper titled: Kentucky’s Experience in Implementing an Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment System which is available here.

As other states develop their own integrated systems, we hope this information will help them avoid some of the issues Kentucky encountered.

More information on the subcommittee’s meeting, including a link to watch the testimony, is available here.

Additional information is available at http://chfs.ky.gov/.

From Health and Family Services Communications

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