HILO » State lawmakers are considering legislation designed to increase the state’s participation in the federal food stamp program.
The bill brought by Democratic Sen. Josh Green would have health care providers ask clients who are enrolled in Medicaid if they are also participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported. Both federal programs are based on a person’s income.
According to the legislation, the state receives more than $500,000 annually in federal funds to run the food stamp program and has some of the lowest participation rates in the country.
Green, who is a physician, said he decided to introduce the bill after finding that many of his patients did not know they could get assistance through programs such as SNAP.
“I see a lot of people in my other life as a doctor that are in poverty, and I’ve noticed that a lot of them weren’t getting the full complement of resources that they’re eligible for,” he said.
There were 159,603 people in Hawaii who were enrolled in Medicaid but not in SNAP, the bill says.
“If these additional, eligible individuals participated in SNAP, the state could receive more federal funding, an estimated ($247 million) which would ultimately be injected into the economy in Hawaii with no negative impact on the state budget,” the bill states.
The Department of Human Services has testified against the bill, citing implementation and confidentiality concerns. It also said the department is working on allowing people to apply for Medicaid and SNAP simultaneously.