NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Happens To Families Leaving Welfare? And Medicaid?

November 12, 1999

What is happening to families leaving welfare? And why, despite expanded eligibility, have the numbers of people served by Medicaid -- the federal health program for low-income families -- fallen, along with the numbers served by the Food Stamp program?

Some answers may be found in a Washington state survey of former welfare families. The survey, released last week, found that most people leave welfare in Washington state because they find jobs that boost their income, and almost 60 percent say their families well-being has improved. However, according to the Seattle Times:

  • Nearly a quarter of the families who recently left welfare thought Medicaid counted as part of welfare, which has a five-year lifetime limit -- and public employees who work with the poor thought so, too.
  • The state has admitted to cutting Medicaid health insurance from as many as 100,000 adults and children leaving welfare since 1997, due to what the Department of Social and Health Services called a computer glitch.
  • Families are also stopping food stamps when they leave welfare, even when still eligible, and are reporting a startling increase in hunger and days without food.
  • The use of state child-care subsidies is lagging millions behind the need; again, many families think the subsidy equals welfare.

Washington state plans to spend some $180 million of federal money saved due to decreased welfare costs to help families leaving welfare. The governor has announced a $500,000 campaign to inform low-income families they are still eligible for a number of assistance programs.

Source: Editorial, "Welfare Reform: the Next Step," Seattle Times, November 11, 1999.


Browse more articles on Health Issues