Six States Explore More Efficient Ways to Provide Family Benefits – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

For those of us who appreciate the opportunities and
challenges states face in implementing the Affordable Care Act, it is easy to
get wrapped up in making sure the expanded health coverage programs are
streamlined and well coordinated. Much of the work ahead relies on having
sophisticated IT systems that will revolutionize the eligibility and enrollment
process. The ACA will accelerate years of incremental gains in removing
red-tape barriers to health coverage, and that makes us, well at least me, want
to dance in the streets.

However, we should take care not to lose sight of the
fact that 44 states currently operate integrated eligibility systems for
multiple family benefit programs. And these programs, such as food and
childcare assistance, as well as the children and families they serve, can
benefit greatly from the technological innovations that the ACA is driving
forward. Last year I blogged about a new state collaborative – Work Support
Strategies – funded by the Ford Foundation with additional support from the
Open Society Foundations and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  It is directed by our friends at the
Urban Institute in partnership with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
At the time, eight states had just been awarded $250,000 in grants to create a
plan for applying many of the goals of the ACA – technology-enabled,
data-driven eligibility and enrollment and guided by a new vision for customer
service – to help low-income families access family supports that help them
stay in the workforce as they strive to climb the economic ladder.

A few weeks ago, following a year of planning and an
implementation grant round, six states – Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North
Carolina, Rhode Island and South Carolina – were awarded three-year grants,
averaging $460,000 per year, to put their plan to work. As the press release
announcing the grants articulates…these states, and the counties that are
partnering with them, are eager for “more efficient and effective ways to serve
the large and growing need in their communities” as they contend with greatly
diminished resources.

Taking advantage of new technology, simpler policies, and
business processes that trim unneeded steps, states aim to modernize old,
paper-heavy procedures, improve the customer experience, and reduce state
worker burden. State interest in streamlining and program integration is also
spurred by the increased need to connect more people with Medicaid coverage
under the Affordable Care Act.

As a member of the National Advisory Committee for Work
Support Strategies, I feel privileged to have an opportunity to watch the
creativity and enthusiasm these grantees bring to the task at hand. I am
particularly fond of the way North Carolina has framed their vision – “families
will tell their story once” and get the benefits they need. Each of these
states has taken on the tremendous challenge of re-engineering how services are
delivered in coordination with the significant demands of the ACA.

Congratulations to the state teams for their foresight
and perseverance. For more information on the Work Support Strategies:
Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families Initiative, click here. If you’d
like to hear directly about the project, there’s an opportunity next Tuesday,
June 5th to attend a forum at the Urban Institute, in Washington, DC, in person
or virtually by webcast, click here.

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