PUBLIC BENEFITS: ELIGIBILITY/ENROLLMENT DELIVERY


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

Recent Eligibility/Enrollment Delivery Publications

Statement on HHSC Earning $6.2 Million in Incentives for Accuracy in SNAP Payments (06/16/2011)

Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded performance bonuses to the states with the best payment accuracy rates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) in fiscal 2010. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) earned $6.2 million in payment incentives for its performance in two categories: best payment accuracy and most improved payment accuracy. Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) Senior Policy Analyst Celia Cole released the following statement.

“CPPP applauds HHSC Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs for his leadership, and HHSC’s frontline staff for their hard work in achieving this recognition. At 97.87 percent, Texas’ payment accuracy rate was above the national average of 96.19 percent. (Payment accuracy is measured by the amount of benefits issued accurately as a share of total benefits issued.) And at 4.77 percent, Texas’ tops the nation in most improved accuracy rate."

Testimony on Eliminating Finger Imaging for Food Stamps (03/23/2011)

When finger imaging was first implemented, the eligibility determination process for food stamps was paper-based. At that time, there was no way for the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to electronically verify an applicant’s identify to prevent that person from applying for benefits more than once. HHSC has since deployed the TIERS system and introduced electronic third-party verification using sources such as Data Broker and other electronic interfaces. This technology provides HHSC with more cost-effective tools to verify applicant information and confirm identify.

Celia Cole provided testimony to the House Committee on Human Services on HB 710, explaining that the finger imaging requirement for food stamps both undermines HHSC’s efforts to develop more efficient eligibility and enrollment processes, and costs the state of Texas millions in crucial taxpayer dollars.

Testimony: Sustaining Progress Made in Eligibility System Will Require Additional Resources for Caseload Growth, Implementation of Health Care Reform (09/22/2010)

We commend Executive Commissioner Suehs and the Health and Human Services Commission for the significant progress HHSC has made in improving the performance of the eligibility and enrollment system over the last year. This progress is the result of the infusion of 850 additional workers and a set of policy and procedural changes designed to improve worker productivity. However, sustaining these improvements will be impossible unless the Legislature gives HHSC the staffing and other resources its needs to handle growing caseloads and the implementation of national health care reform in 2014. HHSC’s LAR exceptional items related to staff retention and hiring (#6 and #7) outline these essential needs. Without these resources, the performance of the eligibility system will deteriorate, and Texas will lose out on billions of federal funds that are critical to the health and well-being of our state’s residents and economy.

State Auditor to Review SNAP Administration (01/12/2010)

Last month, Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs asked the Texas State Auditor to review the agency’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) operations and recommend changes to address the persistent and severe backlogs and delays in application processing, among other performance problems. The audit presents a critical opportunity to investigate the root causes of the problems facing our eligibility system and identify solutions.

This Policy Page outlines the problems, summarizes recent efforts to resolve them, identifies areas for further investigation, and offers potential solutions.

Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans (10/1/2009)

Texas’ short-staffed eligibility system for safety net programs continues to struggle to provide accurate and timely service to needy Texans seeking assistance in feeding and caring for their families. The 81st Legislature took some baby steps to address this crisis, including mandating a staffing analysis, but failed to provide adequate staff or resources to improve the system’s performance. Serious and widespread delays in processing Food Stamp applications resulted in the filing of a federal lawsuit in July against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for failure to meet the application processing timeframes required by federal law. The lack of adequate numbers of trained staff also has caused Food Stamp/SNAP error rates to soar, which could cost Texas millions in federal sanctions. This Policy Page discusses these developments and the actions needed to fix the crisis in our eligibility system.

Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans (10/1/2009)

Texas’ short-staffed eligibility system for safety net programs continues to struggle to provide accurate and timely service to needy Texans seeking assistance in feeding and caring for their families. The 81st Legislature took some baby steps to address this crisis, including mandating a staffing analysis, but failed to provide adequate staff or resources to improve the system’s performance. Serious and widespread delays in processing Food Stamp applications resulted in the filing of a federal lawsuit in July against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for failure to meet the application processing timeframes required by federal law. The lack of adequate numbers of trained staff also has caused Food Stamp/SNAP error rates to soar, which could cost Texas millions in federal sanctions. This Policy Page discusses these developments and the actions needed to fix the crisis in our eligibility system.

Federal Government Demands State Take Immediate Action to Help Struggling Texans While State Dithers, Denying HHSC Request for Critical Eligibility Staff (09/28/2009)

Austin, Texas"The Center for Public Policy Priorities today condemned the Legislative Budget Board’s (LBB) denial of a request from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to fund hundreds of new eligibility staff for our state’s overwhelmed public benefits system. The new staff would be an essential step toward fixing our system, which cannot process applications timely or accurately. LBB’s denial comes as the state faces an increased need for public safety net services during the worst economic climate in a generation, a demand by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on September 24 for immediate corrective action, and a private class-action lawsuit against the state for failure to meet federal Food Stamp timeliness standards.

Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans (09/28/2009)

Texas’ short-staffed eligibility system for safety net programs continues to struggle to provide accurate and timely service to needy Texans seeking assistance in feeding and caring for their families. The 81st Legislature took some baby steps to address this crisis, including mandating a staffing analysis, but failed to provide adequate staff or resources to improve the system’s performance. Serious and widespread delays in processing Food Stamp applications resulted in the filing of a federal lawsuit in July against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for failure to meet the application processing timeframes required by federal law. The lack of adequate numbers of trained staff also has caused Food Stamp/SNAP error rates to soar, which could cost Texas millions in federal sanctions. This Policy Page discusses these developments and the actions needed to fix the crisis in our eligibility system.

Texas' Eligibility System Continues to Fail Needy Texans (09/28/2009)

Texas’ short-staffed eligibility system for safety net programs continues to struggle to provide accurate and timely service to needy Texans seeking assistance in feeding and caring for their families. The 81st Legislature took some baby steps to address this crisis, including mandating a staffing analysis, but failed to provide adequate staff or resources to improve the system’s performance. Serious and widespread delays in processing Food Stamp applications resulted in the filing of a federal lawsuit in July against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for failure to meet the application processing timeframes required by federal law. The lack of adequate numbers of trained staff also has caused Food Stamp/SNAP error rates to soar, which could cost Texas millions in federal sanctions. This Policy Page discusses these developments and the actions needed to fix the crisis in our eligibility system.

Congress Must Not Leave Any Wounded American Worker on the Economic Battlefield (09/3/2009)

If the First Infantry suffered 9 percent wounded, while the Second Infantry suffered “only” 7.9 percent, sending medicine to the First Infantry, but not the Second, would make no sense. Every wounded soldier deserves help. And, if the Second Infantry is bigger than the First, sending help to the Second would be even more important to the strength of the army. Yet, HR 3404 (McDermott) and S 1647 (Reed) propose to trigger an additional 13 weeks of critically important Emergency Unemployment Compensation for unemployed American workers based upon state unemployment rates. Unemployed workers in 28 states, including Texas, would not get help because of state rates below the trigger. This approach is unfair to American workers and counterproductive for the national economy. Congress should help workers in all states equally.

Keep Rider to Use Federal Recovery Funds for 12-Month Children's Medicaid in 2010-2011 Budget, At No Cost to the Bill (05/8/2009)

Conferees deciding the final form of the Texas state budget for 2010-2011 must decide whether or not to keep alive House Rider 52 in Article II, Special Provisions Relating to all HHS agencies, which funds 12-month children’s Medicaid only in 2010-2011, while additional Medicaid funding is available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Food Stamp Bills Waiting to be Scheduled for a Floor Vote in House (04/30/2009)

Three bills by Rep. Naishtat relating to the Food Stamp Program passed the House Human Services Committee and have been sent to the House Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote by the full House: HB 1627, HB 612, and HB 886. These bills are designed to maximize federal food assistance to low-income Texans and/or reduce the workload of the eligibility staff who process Food Stamp applications. We urge you to call the members of the House Calendars Committee today and ask them to schedule these bills for a vote as soon as possible.

Comparing Medicaid and CHIP Provisions in Texas House Appropriations Committee and Senate Budget Proposals (04/16/2009)

The Texas Senate approved its version of a 2010-2011 state budget bill, and the full House is expected to debate the House Appropriations Committee’s version of the bill this Friday, April 17 (supplemental appropriations will be debated the day before). Complications caused by the recession and the federal recovery funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) compound the usual challenge of understanding the chambers’ competing funding proposals for Medicaid, CHIP and other health care-related programs. This Policy Page highlights key differences between the chambers’ Medicaid and CHIP proposals, plus selected other health care issues and items missing in both bills.

Comments Due April 20 on HHSC Application Redesign (04/9/2009)

The Health and Human Services Commission is redesigning the application for Medicaid, Food Stamps and TANF to make it easier to read, understand and fill out. HHSC has invited stakeholders to provide feedback on the new application and is conducting focus groups around the state to get feedback from clients. A web phone conference to answer questions and share focus group findings is scheduled for April 13 at 2 p.m. Comments are due April 20.

HB 3859 Would Establish Prerequisites for TIERS Expansion and Require Staffing Analysis (04/8/2009)

The House Human Services Committee will hear HB 3859 on Thursday, April 9. HB 3859 would ensure adequate staffing of the health and human services eligibility system and prevent premature expansion of TIERS, the computer system that the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has been piloting since 2003.

HB 613 Would Increase Participation in the Food Stamp Program and Reduce the Workload of Eligibility Staff (04/8/2009)

The House Human Services Committee will hear HB 613 on Thursday, April 9. The bill would increase participation in the Food Stamp Program and improve the performance of the eligibility system by simplifying the Food Stamp enrollment process. HB 613 directs the Health and Human Services Commission to exercise the option in federal law to lengthen certification periods for Food Stamp recipients and reduce unnecessary interview requirements. This Policy Page explains the options available to states to simplify Food Stamp enrollment and summarizes the arguments for adopting these changes to Food Stamp policy in Texas.

SB 841 by Averitt: CHIP "Buy-In" Program
for Uninsured Children Above 200% of Poverty
(04/2/2009)

More than half a million uninsured Texas children have incomes above the current limits for CHIP. In addition, children often fall off of the "CHIP cliff," losing their CHIP coverage when their parents' incomes increase by a small amount, even though those earnings are still too low to purchase private coverage. Texas families turn down raises and cut back work hours just to keep their children covered. Through a CHIP buy-in option, SB 841 by Sen. Averitt keeps families from having to choose between slightly more income or their children's health care. SB 841 has a first hearing April 2 in the Senate Finance Committee. This Policy Page describes the bill, including important details of the expected Committee Substitute.

Action Needed to Help Unemployed Texans Access Health Insurance Assistance in the Recovery Act (03/30/2009)

Only half of Texans get health insurance coverage through an employer"one of the lowest rates in the nation. Access to employer-sponsored health insurance will decline as the recession deepens and companies cut jobs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (federal economic recovery act) includes a temporary COBRA and state continuation premium reduction to help recently unemployed workers and their families maintain private health insurance coverage while they seek new jobs. However, the Texas Legislature must make modest change to our state insurance laws to help Texans losing job-based coverage maximize federal premium assistance. These changes, which require no state general revenue dollars, will help more Texans keep private health insurance and prevent some Texans from joining the growing ranks of the uninsured.

The Texas Recovery Plan (03/25/2009)

Public structures such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Unemployment Insurance were created to help families in tough economic times and to help the economy recover from a down cycle. These are indeed tough times"we face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Tragically, many Texans are becoming aware for the first time of the crumbling nature of many of our public structures, weakened by years of neglect when times were good. Now that times are tough, we find our systems unprepared. Fortunately, though, the new federal economic recovery law makes resources available to help repair and improve these systems, which will in turn energize economic activity and get Texas on the road to recovery.

But, Texas will only get the federal funds"and the needed improvements to our public structures"if state policymakers make the right choices, soon.

Food Stamp Bills Would Maximize Federally Funded Food Assistance to Needy Texans (03/24/2009)

The House Human Services Committee will hear two Food Stamp bills on Thursday, March 26, that would maximize federal funding to provide food assistance for needy Texans. HB 1627 would use the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP) program to maximize Food Stamp benefits for currently eligible families. HB 612 would eliminate the current ban on Food Stamps for drug felons. This Policy Page explains these bills and summarizes the arguments for adopting these changes to Food Stamp policy in Texas.

Modernizing the Vehicle Asset Test (HB 1625): CPPP Testimony to the House Committee on Human Services (03/19/2009)

Reliable means of transportation are essential for families trying to get to and from work, and they are especially important for out-of-work Texans trying to find employment. Current asset tests for determining eligibility for public benefits unfairly penalize Texan families for owning reliable means of transportation. CPPP staff recently offered testimony in support of updating Texas' asset tests to ensure that needy individuals and families get the help they need and still have transportation.

Fixing the Crisis in Our Eligibility System (03/9/2009)

Texas’ broken eligibility and enrollment system cannot handle current demand, much less growing needs with rising unemployment. The Legislature can solve this crisis. First, it must fund the Health and Human Services Commission’s request for $134 million in additional general revenue for the staff needed to improve eligibility system performance. Second, it should adopt 12-months continuous coverage for children on Medicaid, which would greatly reduce the current backlogs in application processing and allow the system to operate competently with fewer staff. The federal economic recovery package provides funds to pay for these additional staff and for 12-months continuous eligibility for children’s Medicaid. This paper makes the case for fixing the crisis in our eligibility system and suggests steps you can take to ensure these priorities are funded in the 2010-11 budget.

Article II - HHSC: Testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services (02/26/2009)

The Legislature must fully fund HHSC Exceptional Items 2 and 3 to provide additional staff for the eligibility system. The demand for services is already on the rise and will only increase as the full effects of the recession hit Texas. Without adequate staff, HHSC cannot provide timely and accurate benefits to eligible families. The delay or inappropriate denial or termination of benefits not only causes great hardship to needy Texans; it also causes the state to lose out on critical federal funds for Food Stamps and Medicaid that boost our state and local economies. The Legislature should also use a portion of the biennial balance in TANF block grant funds to increase cash assistance to extremely poor families and help them weather the economic recession. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) includes an Emergency Contingency Fund that would reimburse Texas for 80% of this increased TANF spending.

Article II -- HHSC: Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee (02/16/2009)

The Legislature must fully fund HHSC Exceptional Items #2 and 3# to provide additional staff for the eligibility system. The demand for services is already on the rise and will only increase as the full effects of the recession hit Texas. Without adequate staff, HHSC cannot provide timely and accurate benefits to eligible families. The delay or inappropriate denial or termination of benefits not only causes great hardship to needy Texans. It also causes the state to lose out on critical federal funds for Food Stamps and Medicaid that boost our state and local economies.

Federal Economic Recovery Legislation and Texas (02/13/2009)

Today, Congress released the details of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provides $789 billion to stimulate the economy. Many of these measures will also help protect vulnerable Texans during this economic downturn. To take full advantage of the benefits in the recovery package and set our economy on the road to recovery, Texas must plan immediately. We applaud Speaker Joe Straus for appointing the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, charged with monitoring federal action and suggesting to standing committees needed steps to qualify for federal economic recovery funds. This paper summarizes the portions of the bill that affect the state budget.

Eligibility System Progress Report (07/14/2008)
Access to health care, good nutrition, and cash assistance is vital to low-income Texas families who don’t earn enough to make ends meet, particularly during economic downturns. Yet, enrolling in programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid has gotten harder over the last year due to problems with TIERS"the new computer system"and a shortage in state workers that resulted from the Legislature’s failed attempt to privatize the system in 2006. Rebuilding and sustaining a viable eligibility system promises to be one of the most important challenges facing Texas in the years to come. Today, the Legislative Oversight Committee overseeing efforts to rebuild the eligibility system will hold a public hearing. The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will provide a progress report and present the benchmarks that will be used in determining whether to continue implementing TIERS. In this report, CPPP outlines recommendations for HHSC to consider.

Legislative Oversight Committee on TIERS/Eligibility System to Hold Hearing on Monday, July 14 (07/11/2008)
Access to health care and good nutrition is vital to low-income Texas families who don’t earn enough to make ends meet. Yet, enrolling in programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid has gotten harder over the last year due to problems with TIERS"the new computer system"and a staff shortage that resulted from a legislatively-mandated attempt by the state to privatize the system in 2006, which failed. Rebuilding a viable eligibility system promises to be one of the most important challenges facing Texas in the years to come. On Monday, July 14, the Legislative Oversight Committee overseeing efforts to rebuild the eligibility system will hold a public hearing. The Texas Health and Human Service Commission (HHSC) will provide a progress report and present the benchmarks that will be used in determining whether to continue implementing TIERS.

A Guide Through the Matrix of HHSC Contracting: Revised (04/14/2008)
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has released two draft Request for Proposals related to the development and operation of an integrated eligibility system for Food Stamps, Medicaid, TANF, and CHIP. Similar to the now defunct “TAA” contract with Accenture, the RFPs ask vendors to submit their proposals for operating a system of call centers to provide “eligibility support services” for Food Stamps, Medicaid, and TANF; determine eligibility for CHIP-only cases; and provide document processing services through a centralized mail center. CPPP has prepared a contracting matrix that describes these and other major contracting opportunities with HHSC related to the delivery of health and human services, including information on the new Twogether in Texas contract award.

Child Friendly? How Texas' Policy Choices Affect Whether Children Get Enrolled and Stay Enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP (02/13/2008)
This updated report illustrates the history and consequences of Texas' policies related to children's Medicaid and CHIP, using official state program data. It also summarizes national and state research on the effects of eligibility and enrollment policies, and explains how Texas policies compare to those of other states. The report was funded by the generous support of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers.

Comments Due Soon on Five Key HHSC Documents (12/12/2007)
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has posted five important documents on its web site for public comment: revision of the applications for public benefits; the TANF state plan; a Medicaid Waiver concept paper; and two draft Requests for Proposals relating to modernization of the eligibility and enrollment system for public benefits. We know this is a busy time of the year for everyone, but we urge you to take the time to submit comments to HHSC on these important issues.

Testimony on Transition Plan Mandated by H.B. 3575 (09/21/2007)
Anne Dunkelberg presented testimony before the Health and Human Services Commission, Subcommittee on Eligibility System on the Transition Plan.

Eligibility System Subcommittee to Consider Transition Plan (09/14/2007)
The 80th Legislature passed HB 3575 to address the problems in the eligibility system for Food Stamps, Medicaid, TANF and CHIP. Among other things, HB 3575 requires HHSC to develop a Transition Plan that outlines its efforts to rebuild the system. HHSC's advisory council has appointed an Eligibility System Subcommittee to oversee the transition. The subcommittee will hold a meeting on Friday, September 21, at 10:00 in the Criss Cole Auditorium at 4800 North Lamar Austin, TX, to review and seek public comment on the Transition Plan. We strongly encourage all parties interested in the future of the eligibility system to attend this meeting. Click here for the agenda for this meeting and a copy of the draft Transition Plan.

Eligibility System Subcommittee to Consider Transition Plan (09/14/2007)
The 80th Legislature passed HB 3575 to address the problems in the eligibility system for Food Stamps, Medicaid, TANF and CHIP. Among other things, HB 3575 requires HHSC to develop a Transition Plan that outlines its efforts to rebuild the system. HHSC's advisory council has appointed an Eligibility System Subcommittee to oversee the transition. The subcommittee will hold a meeting on Friday, September 21, at 10:00 in the Criss Cole Auditorium at 4800 North Lamar Austin, TX, to review and seek public comment on the Transition Plan. We strongly encourage all parties interested in the future of the eligibility system to attend this meeting. Click here for the agenda for this meeting and a copy of the draft Transition Plan.

Update on the Integrated Eligibility System (05/7/2007)
The committee substitute for House Bill 3575 (CSHB 3575), by Rep. Patrick Rose, would prescribe goals for the integrated eligibility system, create an independent review team, and establish a legislative oversight committee. The bill would not address the shortage of state workers, which is perhaps the most critical challenge facing the rebuilding of the eligibility system, and neither the House nor the Senate budget includes funds to increase staff. However, both versions of the budget would give the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) the authority to increase staff in the event that HHSC decides to use fewer contractor staff when it restructures the eligibility system.

CPPP Statement on Tiers/IE System Recommendations (04/20/2007)
Yesterday, April 19, 2007, the Subcommittee on TIERS and Integrated Eligibility, chaired by Representative Abel Herrero and including Representative Tan Parker and Representative Bryan Hughes, presented its unanimous recommendations to the House Human Services Committee for addressing the problems in the TIERS/IE system and establishing a more efficient and effective eligibility system. The Center for Public Policy Priorities applauds the work of the subcommittee and urges the full committee to adopt its recommendations in their entirety and move quickly to incorporate the recommendations into legislation.

CPPP Statement on Texas' Termination of Accenture Contract (03/13/2007)
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced today that it is terminating its contract with Accenture to enroll low-income Texans in critical programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). The contract will officially end in November 2007. Privatization was supposed to save Texas hundreds of millions of dollars and improve services to clients through better use of technology and a more modern enrollment process.

Testimony on Problems Enrolling Texans in Public Benefits (02/23/2007)
Celia Hagert and Anne Dunkelberg provided invited testimony at a public hearing on problems with Texas' system for determining eligibility for public benefits, including Food Stamps, CHIP, and Medicaid.

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Testimony on SB 1 (02/12/2007)
Celia Hagert testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on SB 1, General Appropriations Act for 2008-09 (HHSC). She specifically addressed HHSC’s integrated eligibility and enrollment system and the use of TANF funds in the 2008-2009 budget.

CPPP Statement on HHSC's New Strategy for Enrollment in Public Benefits (12/21/2006)
Austin, TX"Today, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced a new strategy for enrolling needy Texans in public benefits, including Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), Food Stamps, and temporary cash assistance (TANF). Over four million low-income Texans rely on these services to meet their basic needs. F. Scott McCown, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said: “We applaud this new strategy. HHSC is moving in the right direction. Commissioner Hawkins and his team worked hard to learn from the pilot and make needed changes. We are particularly encouraged that HHSC will increase the number of permanent state staff and resume the integrated-eligibility pilot only when the necessary technology is in place. Still, the workload is growing, and the legislature needs to add more state staff.”

Outsourcing Issues and Concerns in Public Benefits Administration (11/30/2006)
Celia Hagert presented an overview of the concerns and issues raised by privatizing enrollment of public benefits before the Texas Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Making the Case for an Adequately Funded Eligibility System (11/14/2006)
Celia Hagert presented on the need for an adequately funded state eligibility system at the Funding State Services Conference held by the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Updating and Outsourcing Enrollment Public Benefits: The Texas Experience (11/13/2006)
Outsourcing was supposed to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars and improve services to clients, but so far, the state has not saved a penny in administrative costs. The children, elderly, and persons with disabilities who rely on these services have suffered through a frustrating enrollment process, been caught in long backlogs, and often been wrongly denied benefits. In May 2006, the state delayed further rollout of the system indefinitely and asked state staff to take over. This report shares the Texas experience.

New Report on Texas' Troubled Outsourcing Experiment Tells Cautionary Tale for Sister States (11/13/2006)
A report released today on Texas’ experiment with outsourcing enrollment in key health and human services tells a cautionary tale about the state’s attempt to modernize the system that determines eligibility for health care, food, and cash assistance benefits. Over four million low-income Texans rely on these services to meet their basic needs.

Presentations at the United Way of Metro Tarrant County's Pre-Legislative Health and Human Services Public Policy Forum (11/13/2006)
Celia Hagert and Tiffany Roper presented on outsourcing public benefits administration and privatizing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services at the United Way of Metro Tarrant County's public policy forum.

Want Welfare? Don't Count on Texas' New, Inadequately Staffed System for Help: Dallas Morning News (08/4/2006)
Most of us have never had to think about how families in need sign up for public help such as health care and food stamps. Right now, however, an important debate is brewing in the Capitol over the question"how should we sign people up for help?

Staffing and Training Challenges in the Integrated Enrollment and Eligibility System (IE&E) (07/26/2006)
Celia Hagert delivered testimony before the Texas House Committee on Government Reform on the challenges faced by the state's privatization of social services.

CPPP Legislative Letter on Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment (07/19/2006)
Last week two groups of House Members wrote to HHSC Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins regarding continuation of the Texas Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment Services (IE&E) project. These letters express two competing views. In this letter to the legislature, CPPP offers a different perspective relating to inadequate staffing for the project.

HHSC Request for Proposals: Community Based Outreach and Application Assistance (07/18/2006)
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) released a Request for Proposals for Community Outreach and Assistance on June 6. CPPP wants to make sure that Texas community-based organizations are aware of this important opportunity. We believe that it is important that Texas organizations serving low-income workers and families, the elderly, and people with disabilities join forces to create robust networks capable of helping eligible Texans access the services they need--and helping keep them enrolled.

Outsourcing Hurts the Poor: Austin American-Statesman (06/26/2006)
The state's attempt to change the way Texans in need get health care, food, and temporary cash assistance has been a disaster.

Rocky Road for Children's Health Care (06/13/2006)
This past November, the state began changing the way Texans enroll in public services. From the beginning the system has been troubled, and children’s health care has been especially hard hit. The number of kids receiving health care through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program has dropped by over 108,000 since the new contractor took over.

Problems Enrolling in Public Benefits? (04/19/2006)
Texas is using a new system to sign up for or renew Food Stamps, Children’s Medicaid/CHIP, and TANF. Some people may be having problems getting benefits using the new system, or you may be helping someone who is having a problem signing up. CPPP is not a state or federal agency and we cannot sign you up for benefits, but we can tell you who to report your problem to...

Food Stamp Issues and Challenges (04/18/2006)
Celia Hagert presented invited testimony on food stamp changes at the federal level as well as food stamp access in the new integrated eligibility system.

Statement on HHSC’s Decision to Put Social Service Call Centers on Hold (04/7/2006)
The Center for Public Policy Priorities supports the difficult decision the Texas Health and Human Services Commission made Wednesday to delay for at least 30 days the next phase of a new system that uses privately run call centers to help people apply for food stamps, Medicaid, and TANF. Since the January launch of pilots in Travis and Hays counties, the new system has been marked by technical difficulties, staffing shortages, and inadequate training of private call center staff. These problems have delayed services to clients, caused thousands of children to lose their health insurance, and frustrated both clients and staff.

Integrated Eligibility/Call Center Update (02/7/2006)
On January 20, the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) launched a three-month pilot of a new system for enrolling Texans in public benefits. The pilot is in Travis and Hays Counties and will test a new online application and the use of privately-run call centers to help people apply for Food Stamps, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF cash assistance). If the pilot is successful, the system will be expanded to other areas of the state on a geographic basis beginning in April. This Policy Page provides an overview of the new system, explains how HHS clients will be affected during the rollout, and suggests ways for nonprofit and community-based organizations to make the transition to the new system as smooth as possible for their clients.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

Despite Uncertain Future of New Computer System for Eligibility Determination, HHSC Moves Forward with Plans to Privatize Health and Human Services (12/10/2004)
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) intends to award a multi-billion dollar contract to a private company to develop and run a new model for delivering health and human services.

Capitol Forum on Integrated Eligibility (10/26/2004)
Panelists voice concerns, offer recommendations on role for community-based organizations in the Health and Human Services Commission's proposal to replace local eligibility offices with privatized call centers.

Health and Human Services Reorganization and the Integrated Eligibility Initiative (09/30/2004)
Presentation to Houston One Voice Collaborative.

Comments on the Draft Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment Services Request For Proposal (06/18/2004)
The Center for Public Policy Priorities offers the following comments on the Draft Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment Services Request For Proposal (draft RFP) released on June 8, 2004.

Call Centers' Plan Allows Seven Minutes for Eligibility Determination (06/10/2004)
The integrated eligibility model developed by HHSC allocates seven minutes at the new call centers to verify each application for an array of public benefits. The current face-to-face interview to determine eligibility requires up to an hour and a half.

State Moves Forward with Plan to Use Call Centers to Enroll People in Key Social Services (04/26/2004)
On March 25, HHSC released a report claiming to make the "business case" for moving most eligibility functions for TANF, Food Stamps, and Medicaid to three call centers. Under the current system, most people apply for these benefits at one of 381 local eligibility offices administered and staffed by the Texas Department of Human Services (DHS).

Texas Reaching Only Half of Those Eligible for Food Stamps, Says New National Study (04/21/2004)
Even while state budgets are tight and programs are being cut back to historically low levels, Texas could still take better advantage of federal dollars to serve the hungry and food insecure, says a study released today.

Final Section-by-Section Analysis of HB 2292 (04/1/2004)
Article 1 of HB 2292 provides for the eventual consolidation of all health and human services (HHS) agencies into five agencies, replaces agency boards with advisory councils, consolidates all policy development and rulemaking authority for HHS programs and services with the commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and creates a Transition Legislative Oversight Committee to facilitate the consolidation. An analysis of the major provisions in Article 1 follows, with our major concerns noted.

HHSC Report Proposes Using Call Centers to Determine Eligibility for HHS Programs (03/15/2004)
This report recommends a mammoth undertaking that will affect the local services network and economy of hundreds of communities, could affect the jobs of up to 10,000 state employees at DHS involved in eligibility determination, and radically alters customer access and service delivery in these programs.

Flyer: Food Stamp Program Income Eligibility Guidelines (01/1/2004)
Chart gives the income eligibility limits and food stamp benefits according to family size for 10/1/03-09/30/04.

Testimony on Draft HHS Reorganization Transition Plan (10/20/2003)
The Center for Public Policy Priorities offers the following comments on the HB 2292 Draft Transition Plan dated October 16, 2003.

HB 2292 Update: HHS Reorganization (09/15/2003)
This Policy Page includes the schedule for the public hearings and notes our major concerns with the reorganization of HHS agencies and the privatization of state services, as well as our recommendations for mitigating the effect of these changes on clients.

78th Legislature-1st Special Session (07/7/2003)
This Policy Page summarizes the primary charges of the special session, with CPPP's major concerns noted.

CSHB 2292 Analysis (04/23/2003)
This Policy Page provides a short analysis of CSHB 2292 (with a link to a more detailed section-by section analysis on our web site) with a summary of our major concerns and recommendations for improving the bill or, in many cases, limiting the negative impact to the health and human services infrastructure in Texas.

CSHB 2292 Analysis (04/23/2003)
This Policy Page provides a short analysis of CSHB 2292 (with a link to a more detailed section-by section analysis on our web site) with a summary of our major concerns and recommendations for improving the bill or, in many cases, limiting the negative impact to the health and human services infrastructure in Texas.

Information on Medicaid Simplification (04/10/2003)
Prior to SB 43 (in April 2001), 67% of the families of children subject to simplification reported earned income (the remainder were dependent on SSI disability, SSDI, or child support). As of January 2003, that percentage has increased to 79%. The children who lose out when bureaucratic hurdles are used to reduce caseloads are the children in working families " the ones we all want to reward.

Flyer: You May be Able to Apply for Food Stamps Over the Phone (01/1/2002)
You may qualify for a telephone interview, if you cannot come to the office to apply for food stamps.

Flyer: You May be Able to Apply for Food Stamps Over the Phone (En Espanol) (01/1/2002)
Usted puede calificar para una entrevista por telefono, si usted no puede venir a la oficina para aplicar para estampillas de comida.

TIERS of Relief (09/13/2001)
Continuation of the Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System (TIERS) project, which looked somewhat uncertain during the 77th Legislative Session, was finally approved at $137 million in Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the General Appropriations Act for 2002 and 2003.This Policy Page provides information on the status of TIERS, prominent features of the system"including "STARS," the newly available online self-screener for benefits"and the timeline for future development and rollout of the system.

Omnibus Medicaid Bill, SB 1156, Sent to Governor (06/4/2001)
On Sunday, May 27th the Senate concurred in House amendments to SB 43, the Children's Medicaid Simplification bill. Later that afternoon, both houses adopted the Conference Committee report on SB 1156, an omnibus bill encompassing a wide range of Medicaid policy changes. This Policy Page provides a brief description of the final version of SB 1156; a separate issue detailing SB 43 was released earlier.

Status Report on Chidren's Medicaid Simplification (04/9/2001)
As many readers know, the Texas Legislature is considering a number of bills designed to simplify and streamline the process of applying for (or re-certifying for) Medicaid coverage for children (under age 19). Put simply, the goal of the bills is to make the process for children's Medicaid identical to that for CHIP, so that parents could submit CHIP's TexCare Partnership application to enroll their children in either program, with no additional steps needed.

Lege Ponders Immigrant Families Bills (04/3/2001)
The Texas Legislature is considering several bills which could improve the prospects for children by improving legal immigrants' access to safety net benefits. A brief description of the bills is provided.

Further DHS Staff Cuts Unjustifiable (02/9/2001)
The primary goal of eligibility policy reform is to minimize barriers for working families and ensure that clients receive the supports necessary to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency. Although early analyses of eligibility streamlining (by the Legislative Budget Board and the Comptroller's office) have proposed significant staff cuts for the Texas Department of Human Services (DHS), the center strongly recommends that these policy changes not be paired with any new reductions in DHS eligibility office staff.

TIERS Progress Report (05/12/2000)
The 76th Legislature was debating how much funding to appropriate to the Texas Department of Human Services (DHS) to implement the proposed Texas Integrated Enrollment and Services (TIERS) project. This Policy Page summarizes the progress made thus far in implementing TIERS and points out opportunities for public input in future project planning and roll-out.

TIES Progress Report (05/4/1999)
Although the ultimate design of the proposed Texas Integrated Enrollment and Services (TIES) project will depend on how much funding, if any, is appropriated by the Legislature, the TIES agency team continues to make progress. In response to legislators' concerns over the high cost of TIES and its impact on employee reduction and relocation, agency staff have developed several alternatives to the original TIES proposal. This Policy Page outlines these options and summarizes new developments and progress in the TIES project.

76th Legislative Session: TIES Developments (04/13/1999)
This Policy Page describes funding proposals made by the House and Senate that will have to be decided by the budget conference committee later this session, and summarizes TIES-related legislation.

Nonqualified Immigrants Face September 1998 SSI Termination (05/1/1998)
A small group of elderly or disabled immigrants who are lawfully present and currently receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cash assistance remain at risk of losing their SSI benefits at the end of the current federal fiscal year.

TIES Public Hearing in El Paso (04/2/1998)
The Texas Integrated Enrollment and Services Project (TIES) Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC) will hold a public hearing in El Paso at 9:00 AM on April 7, 1998.

Special Policy: TIES Public Hearing Coming to Dallas Next Week (03/19/1998)
The Texas Integrated Enrollment and Services Project (TIES) Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC) will hold a public hearing in Dallas at 10:00 AM on March 25th, 1998.

Many Federal Programs May Be Forced to Verify Citizenship, Exclude Undocumented for First Time (12/19/1997)
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), included language directing that "unqualified" immigrants would no longer be eligible for "federal public benefits."

The Balanced Budget Act of 1997: Immigrant Policy Provisions (09/19/1997)
On August 5, the President signed into law the federal budget reconciliation act for FFY 1998, officially titled the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The Act includes a wide variety of important provisions; this Policy Page describes in a summary way important changes in immigrants' eligibility for public benefits.

Privatization of Health and Human Services Eligibility Determination (09/1/1997)
With a now defunct proposal to privatize its eligibility determination system for health and human services, Texas has been a national leader in the arena of social services privatization. Since 1995, Texas has been developing a plan to award a seven-year, $2.8 billion (estimate) contract to a private company (or a public/private partnership) to operate the state's eligibility system.

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