House scales back proposed changes to Medicaid, food stamp eligibility

By: - February 15, 2022 5:39 pm

The steps of the Iowa Capitol. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowans would face new requirements when applying for programs like Medicaid or food stamps under a bill advancing in the Iowa House.

The proposal was born of a 2021 Senate bill that would have required additional identity verification and asset testing for public assistance applicants. House lawmakers did not take up the bill last session.

Upon returning to the Capitol in 2022, the House split the Senate bill into several parts, holding separate subcommittees on each component. Lawmakers combined some of the proposals into House Study Bill 698, a single bill to address the integrity of Iowa’s public assistance programs.

“We have done a lot of work on this bill to make sure that we are providing a safety net that Iowans need, but we also want to protect the taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Ann Meyer, chair of the House Human Services Committee and a leader on the package.

The new proposal, which advanced Tuesday through the House Human Resources Committee, would make several changes to Iowa’s public assistance program:

  • Applicants would be required to complete a computerized, knowledge-based questionnaire to confirm their identity before receiving public assistance from the state.
  • The Department of Human Services (DHS) must routinely check whether recipients of public assistance are still eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid. 
  • Applicants for SNAP would be required to cooperate with child support in order to qualify for the program.

The Iowa Department of Human Services is tasked with implementing the changes – as permitted by federal law – by 2024, under an amended version of the proposal. 

Some of the more controversial provisions from the original Senate proposal, such as asset testing for food stamps, are not part of the current House bill. But Democrats still raised concerns that the changes could create new burdens on families.

“I’m just concerned that, at a time when grocery costs are skyrocketing and we know that SNAP recipients are already having their benefits reduced, I just want to move forward with ultimate caution,” said Rep. Kristin Sunde, D-West Des Moines. “… I don’t want kids to be impacted adversely.”

The Human Services Committee voted 13-8 to approve the bill, marking it eligible for floor debate and clearing a Friday legislative deadline.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.