Transitional Coverage Can Help Families Move From Welfare to Work

GAO-02-679T: Published: Apr 23, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 2002.

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Welfare reform significantly changed federal policy for low-income families with children and established a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. Welfare reform also extended transitional Medicaid assistance through 2001. States have implemented various initiatives to help families move from cash assistance to the workforce, including some enhancements to transitional Medicaid. These initiatives likely helped to cut cash assistance caseloads by more than half from 1996 through mid-2001. Low-wage or part-time jobs--which are common for newly working individuals--often do not come with affordable health insurance, thus making transitional Medicaid coverage an important option. The implementation of transitional Medicaid assistance varied across the 21 states that GAO reviewed. State practices enhanced beneficiaries' ability to retain Medicaid coverage. However, many families did not receive their full transitional Medicaid assistance benefits because they failed to report their income three times during the 12-month period of coverage. Amending the Medicaid statute to provide states with greater flexibility to ease income-reporting requirements, as has been done for other aspects of the Medicaid program, could facilitate uninterrupted health insurance coverage for families moving from cash assistance to the workforce.

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