Feds could freeze funding if Texas doesn't speed up Medicaid, food stamp applications

Texas has a backlog of more than 90,000 food stamp applications. The oldest is from 10 months ago.

click to enlarge A store advertises that it accepts federal food stamp benefits. - Shutterstock / Jonathan Weiss
Shutterstock / Jonathan Weiss
A store advertises that it accepts federal food stamp benefits.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, revealed this week in a lengthy press release that Texas could lose millions in federal funding by June 20 if the state fails to speed up its processing of Food Stamp and Medicaid applications.

Last year, Texas kicked more than 2 million residents — or nearly 7% of the state's population — off Medicaid due to system mismanagement at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Many Texans who still qualify for the program were forced to reapply, Doggett said in his statement.

Although states usually determine eligibility for Medicaid applicants within 45 days — or 90 days for disability applicants — Texas isn't keeping that pace, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said in letters sent to the HHSC and Gov. Greg Abbott. Doggett's office shared that correspondence.

State governments are also required to process applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — also called food stamps — within 30 days. Doggett revealed that Texas HHSC had 90,398 backlogged SNAP applications as of last month. The of those oldest delayed application was filed 10 months ago.

In response to those delays, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and CMS have sent several letters to HHSC threatening to cut federal funds to Texas.

"The indifference of Gov. [Greg] Abbott has left millions of vulnerable families without access to a family physician or the ability to put food on the table," Doggett said in a statement. "While belated actions from USDA and CMS are much needed, Texans will continue to suffer until we have competent state leadership that prioritizes those most in need. Any loss of federal funding, even administrative funds, would be a direct result of the Abbott HHSC's failures."

In its latest letter, the CMS warned that HHSC could be placed under a "corrective action plan" if the agency fails to provide processing data, a staffing plan, current mitigations and the process of adjudicating applications by June 21.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department warned that HHSC's federal funding could be suspended by June 20 if the state agency fails to respond to the federal government's concerns.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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