PUBLIC BENEFITS


The center focuses on health care access, immigrants' access to services, food and nutrition, the state's eligibility and enrollment system, and TANF.

Recent Public Benefits Publications

It Ain't Over Until the Fat Lady Sings/Go See the Fat Lady While She is at Home (12/22/2005)

With the Vice President casting the tiebreaking vote, the Senate voted 51 to 50 for a budget reconciliation bill designed to cut programs for low-income Americans, while catering to the pharmaceutical and managed care industries. Now the bill goes back to the House for another vote after the holiday recess. We need you to raise a delegation to go visit your Member of Congress at home during this recess.

CPPP Urges Calls to U.S. Senators Right This Minute to Stop Budget Reconciliation (12/19/2005)

The U.S. Senate will vote late today (Monday 12/19/05) on budget reconciliation. A very close vote is expected. We urge you to call our Senators to tell them to vote no.

U.S. House Bill Could Criminalize Safety Net for Immigrants (12/14/2005)

On Thursday, December 15, we expect the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on the “Border Security and Terrorism Prevention Act” (H.R. 4437). The bill includes some very harmful provisions, while making no attempt to address comprehensive immigration reform. Of special concern from CPPP's perspective, HR 4437 threatens to reverse current federal law that protects safety net providers of health care, hunger aid, shelter, disaster relief and other safety net services from having to screen out or discriminate against undocumented persons.

76,000 Texans Estimated to Lose Food Stamps Under Federal Budget Proposal (12/14/2005)

Congress will soon decide whether to eliminate food stamp benefits for about 255,000 low-income Americans, including about 76,000 Texans. The cuts are contained in the U.S. House of Representative’s budget reconciliation bill passed on November 18. This bill would cut more than $700 million in food stamp benefits over the next six years, making Texas the hardest hit among the states, with Texans shouldering approximately 30% of the food stamp cuts. Most of the families who would lose benefits are low-wage workers with children. By contrast, the Senate’s version of the bill makes no cuts to the Food Stamp Program. This policy analysis examines the proposed food stamp cuts and their impact on Texas.

Special CPPP Message on Federal Budget Reconciliation (12/5/2005)

Uncle Sam needs you to enlist in a national effort to stop “budget reconciliation” by contacting your congressional representative and Texas senators. We have prepared a short message in Q&A form to explain how very much is at stake for low-income Americans in this battle.

Letters from Texas Organizations Regarding the Call Center Rollout (12/5/2005)

Letters sent from Texas advocacy and service organizations to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service regarding its monitoring of the Texas call center rollout.

Legislative Update on Health Care in Texas (12/1/2005)

A Texas health care legislative update delivered by Anne Dunkelberg at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Texas and the TANF Block Grant (11/11/2005)

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant is the sixth largest source of federal funds in the Texas state budget. TANF is second only to Medicaid in the support it provides for state health and human services. This Policy Brief analyzes Texas’ fiscal and policy choices regarding TANF, in light of pending federal reauthorization and mounting federal deficits.

Take Action: U.S. House to Decide This Week Whether to Cut Billions in Services (11/7/2005)

During the week of November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a budget reconciliation bill that would result in $50 billion in spending cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps, and other vital services for vulnerable families and children to help fund $70 billion in tax cuts. (Other cuts include child support enforcement, SSI disability benefits, child care, foster care assistance, and student loans.) All this week, please join a national campaign to oppose these cuts by calling your representative toll-free at 1-800-426-8073.

Fact Sheets: Accessing Medications and Vision Care in Texas Medicaid and CHIP (11/2/2005)

Authored by Amanda Navarro and Barbara Best of the Children's Defense Fund-Texas and CPPP's Anne Dunkelberg, these materials were developed by the Houston/Harris County Covering Kids and Families Access Initiative as part of a two year grant by the The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the Children's Defense Fund of Texas. Houston is one of 17 national projects in the initiative, and one of two Texas projects. CPPP provided Technical Assistance to both of the two local Texas projects, and worked with CDF and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to review these materials for accuracy. In research with 300 families and over 50 pharmacists and providers, CDF uncovered a number of difficulties families face in getting prescriptions filled through CHIP/Medicaid, as well as questions and concerns among providers and pharmacists. A number of questions also arose about vision beenfits in Medicaid and CHIP. The CDF team developed several informational flyers for parents, pharmacists, and health care providers based on this work. Please feel free to distribute.

U.S. House Votes to Cut Food Stamps at the Same Time USDA Finds Texas Leading Nation in Rate of Households at Risk of Hunger (10/31/2005)

On Friday, the House Agriculture Committee terminated food stamp assistance for 300,000 vulnerable people on the very day that the USDA announced that Texas leads the nation in the percentage of households at risk of going hungry (16 percent). Nationwide, 4.4 million people suffered food insecurity last year, almost a million people more than the previous year. “Food insecure” households are those that had difficulty buying enough food because they could not afford it.

Keep the Pressure on Congress (10/25/2005)

Both the House and the Senate plan to make committee budget decisions over the next two weeks with possible final votes on cuts in the Senate the week of October 31 and in the House the week of October 31 or November 7. We urge you to contact again both your Texas senators and your congressional representative with a simple message: No cuts to vital help for low-income Americans, including Medicaid and Food Stamps.

Letter and Background on Federal Budget Reconciliation (10/10/2005)

CPPP has prepared a backgrounder on federal tax cuts, federal spending, the cost of Katrina relief, and federal budget deficits, as well as a letter to Texas' Congressional delegation on these issues.

Call to Action to Stop Spending Cuts for the Poor and Tax Cuts for Wealthy (10/10/2005)

One month ago, as part of a national effort, we asked you to urge your senators and congressional representative not to cut federal spending on critical health and human services such as Medicaid and Food Stamps. Because of your efforts, Congress delayed taking action, but congressional committees are again moving ahead with plans to mark up cuts during the week of October 17, with the Budget Committees slated to package the cuts around October 26, and Congress to consider bills making the cuts shortly thereafter. Please join us and other citizens across the country in a National Call to Action by telling our senators and representatives what we want.

Update on Children's Health Care and More (10/4/2005)

Presentation that Anne Dunkelberg delivered before a meeting of the Department of State Health Services in Harlingen, TX.

CPPP Statement on Draft State Auditor’s Report (09/29/2005)

Today's story in the San Antonio Express-News, “State savings don't add up," makes public the findings of a draft report by the State Auditor’s Office critical of the methodology behind the Health and Human Services Commission’s decision last year to outsource its human resource and payroll functions to a private contractor. The auditor’s report says the savings from outsourcing are not $45 million over five years as claimed by HHSC to justify the contract, but only $1.1 million. The report also determined that HHSC does not have adequate performance measures in place to monitor contactor performance and ensure people’s needs are met.

U.S. Senate Passes Amendment Prohibiting Privatization of Food Stamp Program Operations (09/26/2005)

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed the 2006 agricultural appropriations bill with an amendment that prohibits states from using federal funds if they privatize more than 10% of their Food Stamp Program operations. If the amendment is successful, it would prevent Texas from going forward with its plans to privatize Food Stamp enrollment under the contract it signed with Accenture in June (which also includes enrollment in CHIP, Medicaid, and TANF cash assistance).

Power Struggle Over Katrina Funding: CPPP's Analysis (09/22/2005)

There are two deals on the table about the best way to pay for Katrina health care relief. This Policy Page describes the differences between the Texas waiver and the bipartisan relief bill, identifying the provisions of the bill that the Medicaid waiver does not address and discussing possible ramifications of the waiver approach versus the relief bill.

Two Wins (09/20/2005)

We are happy to report that acting together, we moved Congress. The Senate has now delayed the deadline for budget cuts to late October and the deadline for tax cuts to early November. On another front, we are pleased to announce that our state leadership has given the green light to the Health and Human Service Commission to restore mental health benefits for adults on Medicaid.

Call to Action: Tell Congress to Oppose Funding Cuts (09/8/2005)

By September 16, congressional committees have instructions to cut $35 billion from Medicaid, Food Stamps, Medicare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, TANF, and SSI for the elderly and disabled. Medicaid could be cut by as much as $10 billion. This doesn't have to happen.

B Rapoport, President Clinton, Hurricane Katrina, and You (09/7/2005)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities is pleased to announce that we will honor Bernard Rapoport as a Texas legacy at our annual legacy luncheon. Mr. Rapoport (known to most as B) is a noted entrepreneur, founding the American Income Life Insurance Company; a public leader, serving as a regent for The University of Texas System; and a great philanthropist, heading the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation. B is truly a Texas"indeed a national"legacy. We also want to share the exciting news that President Clinton has agreed to deliver the keynote address in honor of his good friend, Bernard Rapoport.

State & Local Gov: Challenges of the Fiscal Relationship (08/5/2005)

Presentation in Dallas by Eva De Luna Castro to National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) Policy Institute on Sustainable Communities, on changes in state and local government sources of revenue/taxes/federal aid.

CPPP Celebrates Medicaid's 40th Birthday (07/28/2005)

On Thursday, the Center for Public Policy Priorities and more than 50 other Texas organizations hosted a birthday party press briefing to celebrate 40 years of Medicaid. In conjunction with the event, the Texas Senate passed a resolution recognizing Medicaid's birthday and the "critical role it plays in the health care of this state's most vulnerable citizens."

Look Who's 40: Medicaid Clients & Experts to Celebrate Program's Birthday and Urge Congress to Keep Program Healthy (07/28/2005)

Join Medicaid clients and health care experts for a Happy Birthday Medicaid press briefing/party in the Lt. Governor’s Reception Room on Thursday, July 28 at 11 a.m. Medicaid turns 40 on July 30.

Call to Action: Tell Congress to Oppose Cuts to the Food Stamp Program (07/19/2005)

Congress is considering making $3 billion in cuts to the Food Stamp Program and other federal food programs over the next five years. These cuts would be achieved through policy changes that would restrict access to Food Stamps, either across the board or for certain populations, such as immigrants or working families. The Agriculture Committees in charge of the food programs are expected to make recommendations to Congress for achieving these cuts by September 16, 2005. Sign onto a national letter circulating in opposition to the proposed Food Stamp cuts and to get Food Stamp enrollment and benefits data for your area. Deadline to sign on is Friday, July 22, 2005.

Partial Restoration of Programs Cut in 2003, Some New Investment: How Medicaid, CHIP, other Health Services Fared in SB 1, the 2006-2007 State Budget (07/11/2005)

The Regular Session of the 79th Texas Legislature has ended and SB 1, the state budget bill for 2006 and 2007 has been passed. The Governor has vetoed certain line items in the budget. The bill incorporates funding to restore some of the Medicaid, CHIP and other health care programs cut by the 2003 Legislature, but leaves some major 2003 cuts unrepaired, and the fate of others up in the air.

Texas: The Big Picture (07/7/2005)

Scott McCown delivered the keynote address, "Texas: The Big Picture," before hundreds at the 20th Annual Texas Community MHMR Centers' Staff and Trustee Training Conference.

HHSC Awards Call Center Contract (07/7/2005)

On June 30, the Health and Human Services Commission announced a 5-year, $899 million contract with Accenture, LLP to revamp and take over operation of the state’s eligibility and enrollment systems for Medicaid, CHIP, Food Stamps, and TANF cash assistance. The contract is the latest development in the state’s plans to move to a more automated system for enrolling people in these benefits and will lead to the use of four call centers and an Internet application, with fewer eligibility staff and local offices. This Policy Page shares what we know so far about these latest developments in the state’s plans to use private call centers to enroll people in public benefits.

Texas Makes Better Use of Federal Resources for Summer Meal Programs; More is Needed to Reach Needy Children (06/16/2005)

Texas has increased the number of low-income children served by federally funded summer nutrition programs since 2000, but still lags far behind the performance of most states, according to a new report released today by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in Washington, D.C. Texas uses two federally funded meal programs to feed children for free during the summer: the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Houston KIDS COUNT Conference on Children Powerpoint Presentations (06/15/2005)

The following presentations were given at the Houston KIDS COUNT Conference on Children, a half-day conference on children's issues in the wake of the 79th Legislative Session.

Hunger Awareness Day Comes at a Vulnerable Time for Texas (06/6/2005)

Tomorrow, June 7, is National Hunger Awareness Day, a day designed to increase awareness of the need to protect America’s nutrition programs. Hunger Awareness Day is particularly timely this year, given that funding to Food Stamps and other nutrition programs is in jeopardy. Food Stamps are particularly important in Texas, given limited funding for food and other social services at the state level.

Call Now to Expand Health Care for Uninsured Women (05/16/2005)

On Tuesday, May 17, the House Committee on Public Health will hear testimony on SB 747 by Senator John Carona, “Relating to establishing a demonstration project for women's health care services,” also known as a Medicaid Women’s Health and Family Planning “waiver.” This is a rare opportunity to support a program expansion that could provide basic medical check-ups and birth control services to uninsured adult Texas women up to 185% of the poverty line (that’s $2,481 per month pre-tax income for a family of 3 in 2005). Best of all, this program will actually save Texas money right away. The federal government will pay 90 cents on every dollar of family planning care, and Texas Medicaid will save a projected $135 million in 2006 and 2007 because of fewer pregnancies covered by Medicaid.

CHIP Update: Legislature Considering Only Partial Restoration of 2003 Cuts (05/11/2005)

There are two ways in which the changes and cuts to CHIP imposed by the 78th Legislature in 2003 can be reversed: through the budget bill, and through separate bills designed to restore the original CHIP program policies. So far, the conference committee on SB 1 (the state appropriations bill for 2006-2007) has agreed only to restore CHIP vision and dental benefits, and to allow a new (less expensive) CHIP premium policy to be implemented. No bills have been passed to reverse the remaining 2003 CHIP cuts. This Policy Page sums up what is “on the table” for CHIP restoration, what is at risk in terms of NEW cuts, and which of the 2003 cuts seem likely to remain, and recommends top-priority changes.

School Lunch, Food Stamp Bills Moving in the Legislature (05/10/2005)

HB 2578"School Meals (Rep. Eddie Rodriguez) and HB 420"Food Stamps (Rep. Elliott Naishtat) are moving in the legislature. HB 2578 would make determining eligibility for free or reduced price school lunch easier for schools and families. It would ensure that as many eligible children as possible receive lunch at school. HB 420 would lift the ban that currently bars persons convicted of drug felonies from ever receiving Food Stamps.

ALERT: Support Needed NOW to Restore Hearing Aids, Eyeglasses and Vision Care, and Podiatry for Aged and Disabled Medicaid Clients (05/5/2005)

The conference committee on SB 1 (the state appropriations bill for 2006-2007) has so far NOT agreed to restore Medicaid podiatry, eyeglasses, or hearing aid benefits for adults on Medicaid, which were cut by the 78th Legislature. Messages to the House’s budget conferees are needed NOW to urge them to “finish the job” and approve funding to allow these impoverished and predominantly elderly or disabled Texans to access vital services.

HB 420--Lifting the Ban on Food Stamps for Drug Felons (05/5/2005)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities urges your support of HB 420 by Representative Naishtat. The lifetime ban on food stamps for people convicted of a drug felony harms Texas communities. By taking away the supports former prisoners need to make the transition from prison, we encourage recidivism, break up families, and perpetuate a discriminatory system of imprisoning the poor, who are disproportionately people of color. Texas also loses out on federal funds that could be used to help people with drug felon convictions reestablish themselves as productive, lawful members of our society. Without the support of Food Stamps, these people must rely on state, local, or privately funded services, which are limited.

Testimony and Information in Support of HB 122 by Naishtat: Restoring Mental Health Professional Services for Adult Medicaid Clients (05/4/2005)

Q: Can adult clients get their mental health professional services from Medicare? A: More than 60% cannot. In April 2005, there were 864,894 adults on Texas Medicaid. Of these, 670,157 (77%) were elderly or disabled (353,537 elderly, and 316,620 disabled or blind).

Federal Court of Appeals: TWC Violated Federal Law by Rewriting Rules to Terminate Poor Mothers’ Medicaid (05/2/2005)

On Friday, April 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks’ earlier ruling that the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) violated federal law by adopting regulations to cut off health care to poor mothers in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families work program, called the Choices program. As long as the women meet work requirements, the Circuit found, they are entitled to Medicaid. A copy of the opinion is attached.

HB 2578 - Relating to the School Meals Program (04/26/2005)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities supports HB 2574. Why encourage school districts to offer free meals to all students? The link between adequate nutrition and improved academic performance creates a clear incentive for Texas to increase participation in the school breakfast and lunch programs, particularly among low-income children.

Combined Impact of Medically Needy Cut and TANF Sanctions: Medicaid Coverage of Parents in Poverty has Dropped by 30 Percent with 78th Legislature’s Changes (04/25/2005)

Absent the changes enacted by the 78th Legislature (i.e., elimination of Medically Needy coverage for impoverished parents, and the new Medicaid and full-family sanctions in TANF), we would expect AT LEAST 44,900 more parents to be covered in FY 2005. (This is a conservative estimate, because it does not attempt to capture the GROWTH in overage above 2003 levels that might have occurred without the cuts and TANF policy changes.)

Can Aged and Disabled Medicaid Clients Get Eyeglasses, Hearing Aids, and Services of Podiatrists, Mental Health Professionals, and Chiropractors Through Medicare? (04/21/2005)

In March, there were 863,391 adults on Texas Medicaid. Of these, 670,062 (78%) were elderly or disabled (353,932 elderly, and 316,130 disabled or blind). About 316,700 of the aged and disabled were full Medicaid-Medicare dual eligibles (47% of the aged and disabled). Thus about 353,800 of our aged or disabled adults (53%) DO NOT QUALIFY FOR MEDICARE, AND HAVE NO OPPORTUNITY FOR MEDICARE TO PICK UP THE BENEFITS THAT WERE CUT.

How the Senate and House Budgets Compare on Medicaid, CHIP, Other Health Services (04/20/2005)

The Senate and House versions of the state budget differ in some important respects in their proposed funding for Medicaid, CHIP and other health care programs (See Policy Page #228 for details on SB 1, the “base” General Appropriations Act for 2006-2007, as first introduced). Soon, the "conference committee" on the state budget will begin to hammer out a final compromise budget for the next two years. Proposed restorations of benefits cut in 2003, funding to reduce waiting lists, and funding simply to allow for population growth and inflation may not survive in the final budget unless the legislature adopts legislation that raises additional revenue to support state government.

HB 2447/SB 1541: Proposed Legislation Would Require a Pilot to Test the Use of Call Centers for Eligibility Determination (03/31/2005)

Representative Naishtat (HB 2447) and Senator Gallegos (SB 1541) have introduced legislation that would require the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to conduct a pilot to test the use of call centers in the Food Stamp, Medicaid, TANF, and CHIP programs before a statewide roll-out or significant reductions in local human services offices and employees.

Urge Your U.S. Senators to Oppose Federal Medicaid Cuts (03/10/2005)

Both the U.S. House and Senate budget proposals would cut Medicaid and CHIP funding for the states even more than the President’s recent budget proposal.

What's Happening with TANF Caseloads: Strict Rules Force Thousands of Kids Off the Rolls (03/9/2005)

This Policy Page analyzes the TANF caseload decline and the impact of strict sanction policies on program recipients and recommends a more reasonable sanction policy that helps rather than hurts poor children.

Can Adult Medicaid Clients Access Mental Health Care Despite Benefit Cuts? (03/2/2005)

Q: Can adult clients get their mental health professional services from Medicare? A: More than 60% cannot.

Senate Bill 47 by Nelson: Medicaid Biometric Finger Imaging Fraud Reduction Pilot Program (02/28/2005)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities appreciates this opportunity to comment on SB 47 by Chairman Nelson. CPPP has approached the biometric imaging with a goal of promoting and protecting ease of access to health care for Medicaid clients. We also support ease of use by Medicaid health care providers, because access to care requires that we not create disincentives for provider participation in Medicaid.

Can Aged and Disabled Medicaid Clients Get Eyeglasses, Hearing Aids, and Services of Podiatrists, Mental Health Professionals, and Chiropractors Through Medicare? (02/21/2005)

In January, there were 862,452 adults on Texas Medicaid. Of these, 667,561 (77%) were elderly or disabled (353,910 elderly, and 313,651 disabled or blind). 316,677 of the aged and disabled were full Medicaid-Medicare dual eligibles (47% of the aged and disabled). Thus 350,884 of our aged or disabled adults (53%) do not qualify for Medicare, and have no opportunity for Medicare to pick up the benefits that were cut.

House Bill 288 by Chavez: Personal Needs Allowance for Nursing Home Residents (02/17/2005)

Only 1 in 9 Texans overall is on Medicaid, yet 7 of 10 Texans in a nursing home is on Medicaid (the same is true on average across the U.S.). Clearly, Texas' Nursing Home programs serve many middle-income Texans.

House Bill 24 by Thompson: Personal Needs Allowance for Nursing Home Residents (02/17/2005)

Only 1 in 9 Texans overall is on Medicaid, yet 7 of 10 Texans in a nursing home is on Medicaid (the same is true on average across the U.S.). Clearly, Texas' Nursing Home programs serve many middle-income Texans.

House Bill 545 by Naishtat: Restore Podiatry Services for Adults on Medicaid (02/17/2005)

Who is on Texas Medicaid? As of January 2005, 2.7 million Texans were enrolled in Medicaid.

Comments on Proposed Medicaid and CHIP funding in SB 1 and HHSC Exceptional Items (02/11/2005)

Testimony before House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Testimony on Proposed State Worker Cuts (02/11/2005)

The Center for Public Policy Priorities offers the following comments on LBB's proposed FY 2006-07 budget for the Health and Human Services Commission.

State Budget Proposes to Cut More Than 4,800 Local Eligibility Workers (02/11/2005)

Legislators began debating the proposed budget for health and human services programs this week (for fiscal 2006-2007), which includes a reduction of 4,809 eligibility staff at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) by fiscal 2007. The proposed reduction represents a 60 percent cut in staff.

Health Care and the 2005 Legislative Session: An Advocate's Perspective (02/6/2005)

Presentation at IAF Conference on Education and Health Issues.

House Begins Public Hearings on HHS Agencies Monday: How Medicaid, CHIP, Health Programs Stand in the LBB's Budget (02/4/2005)

Public hearings on the budget for Article II health and human service programs in SB 1, the General Appropriations Act for 2006-2007, will begin Monday February 7, in the Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee (HAC).

How Resources are Treated in Federal Public Benefit Programs in Texas (01/26/2005)

Cheat sheet on how resources are treated in federal public benefit programs in Texas.

CPPP Makes Texas Monthly List Twice (01/24/2005)

Steve Murdock, director of the Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio and founding board member of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, and F. Scott McCown, the center’s Executive Director, have just been named to Texas Monthly’s list of the 25 Most Powerful People in Texas Politics.

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