Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller reminded Pennsylvanians that safety-net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid are available to individuals and families who are struggling to afford food or access health care.
“So many people are coping with the stress and anxiety of these challenging times by simply putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. I want to remind Pennsylvanians that they are not alone. There is help available, and it always OK to reach out for help when you need it,” Sec. Miller said. “I encourage Pennsylvanians who are struggling to apply for these programs online at www.compass.state.pa.us. You do not need to know your own eligibility in order to apply. We’ll take care of that part.”
Enrollment statewide for Medicaid has increased by 244,603 people since February, for a total enrollment of 3,076,166 in September – an 8.6 percent increase. Secretary Miller also reported that because Governor Wolf expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2015 through the Affordable Care Act approximately 160,000 Pennsylvanians are getting through this pandemic with their access to health care intact.
Around this time last year, about 680,000 Pennsylvanians had health care coverage because of Medicaid expansion. That number is now up to more than 840,000 as of the end of September. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed or struck down, Medicaid expansion would be among the expanded health care options and critical consumer protections that would no longer exist.
“Medicaid expansion has provided a lifeline when people need it most. If you aren’t healthy and taking care of medical needs, you can’t think about getting a job or moving forward. And yet, the Affordable Care Act is under attack,” Sec. Miller said. “If we lose the Affordable Care Act, the nearly 1.3 million people in Pennsylvania who have health insurance because of the ACA could lose that coverage. But the ripple effect will not stop there. Consumer protections like coverage on a parent’s policy up to age 26, no lifetime limits, essential health benefits, and coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions will end – leaving millions of people vulnerable.”
DHS has found that more than half of Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion population is working a job that does not offer health benefits. In fact, a new report reveals that workers with incomes of less than $30,000 a year are offered employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) less than 30 percent of the time.
When people leave Medicaid coverage, many are doing so because their income is increasing. Research suggests that Medicaid expansion has had a positive effect on keeping workers employed and helping the unemployed get a new job.
Enrollment for SNAP statewide has increased by 129,155 people since February, for a total enrollment of about 1,866,614 in September — a 7.4 percent increase.
SNAP helps nearly 1.9 million Pennsylvanians expand purchasing power by providing money each month to spend on groceries, helping households have resources to purchase enough food to avoid going hungry. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. As the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential needs like food is more important than ever to help keep vulnerable populations healthy and mitigate co-occurring health risks.
Applications for SNAP and other public assistance programs can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Those who prefer to submit paper documentation can print from the website or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mail it to their local County Assistance Office (CAO) or place it in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. While CAOs remain closed, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files while CAOs are closed.
For more information about food assistance resources for people around Pennsylvania impacted by COVID-19 and the accompanying economic insecurity, visit the Department of Agriculture’s food security guide.