Every dollar spent on someone who is drawing benefits in multiple states (dual enrollment), for instance, is a dollar that can’t fund services for those with truly urgent needs.
Next week (March 16-20) is the second legislative funnel, a procedural deadline requiring legislation to advance to a certain point to remain eligible for passage in a given year. One bill that could fall to that March 20th deadline is SF 2272. Passed by the Senate on February 26th, the House has yet to take action on this bill that aims to improve the program integrity for various forms of public assistance.
Program integrity means that Iowa’s Department of Human Services (DHS) would need to ensure that dollars for programs like Medicaid and SNAP would be spent on those who truly need assistance. Right now, these eligibility checks are being done manually, but the technology exists that would allow these checks to be automated, only flagging recipients whose paperwork shows discrepancies. DHS would need to upgrade computer software to automate eligibility checks for Medicaid and SNAP programs, and these checks would occur with much greater frequency, and likely much greater accuracy.
DHS workers do their best to prevent fraud, human error makes mistakes much easier. Unfortunately, these errors have added up to millions of lost taxpayer dollars. Just last August, the USDA found that Iowa had overpaid SNAP benefits by $40 million dollars and fined our state $1.8 million for the overpayment. Every dollar spent on someone who is drawing benefits in multiple states (dual enrollment), for instance, is a dollar that can’t fund services for those with truly urgent needs.
What this bill DOES NOT attempt to do is implement work requirements for those utilizing public assistance programs. That is a separate issue that is considered in separate legislation. Program integrity efforts in other states have found shocking results that were costing taxpayers millions. It is time that Iowa upgrade their eligibility verification system within DHS to ensure tax dollars are being spent on those who are truly in need.