As of March 1, 2023, individuals receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are no longer eligible for the temporary Emergency Allotment (EA) benefits that came with the pandemic.
This presents unique opportunities for health insurance agents to find and help prospective clients through community involvement and assist clients with enhanced coverage.
The End of SNAP EAs
As the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) approaches, the end of the SNAP EA benefits is a significant change affecting all SNAP households in the 35 states and territories that still offered them. The average person who’s received additional SNAP benefits over the last three years is losing $90 a month in benefits. Every household is losing at least $95 a month, but some households are seeing a loss of as much as $250 in benefits.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes that this is a major change for many individuals and families. With the end of EAs, the average person will only receive about $6.10 per day in SNAP benefits in 2023.
SNAP households started receiving the expanded benefits soon after they were implemented as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March 2020. Several states (17) had already ended EA benefits by late 2022.
Navigating Major Changes
Since the change in SNAP EAs is occurring right before the end of the PHE (May 11, 2023), some clients could be facing even more major changes and hardships. Clients could also lose their Medicaid status during the Medicaid unwinding.
Here are some important notes to relay to your clients on SNAP:
- Take advantage of other Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) programs if eligible (e.g., WIC, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, etc.).
- Unused SNAP benefits can be rolled over month to month.
- The end of the PHE does not affect eligibility for SNAP benefits. Individuals will continue to receive SNAP benefits as long as they’re eligible.
- Let state or local agencies know of household income decreases or increases in certain expenses (e.g., housing or child care).
Opportunities for Agents
Even though changes may be coming to your clients’ SNAP EA benefits, these changes aren’t a danger for your business! Now that you understand what is to come, we’ll discuss opportunities that are available to build better client relationships and find new clients.
Make Sure Your Clients’ Information Is Up to Date
The easiest way to advocate and help your clients mitigate the stress of losing additional SNAP benefits is to make sure that your clients’ most recent and accurate information is on file with their state’s SNAP office. Follow this database from the USDA to find your client’s office. Many states have online options that streamline the process of updating client information.
By ensuring your client’s information is up to date, you and your clients may realize that they could receive additional benefits due to changes in income, rent, utility costs, dependent care costs, or medical expenses. You may also find that your client is eligible for additional FNS programs.
Check Medicaid Eligibility
Because of the changing income requirements for Medicaid following the ending of the Medicaid continuous enrollment requirement, make sure that you check if your clients are still eligible for Medicaid. Each state has their own income eligibility limits. As their trusted agent, if your clients are no longer eligible for Medicaid, assist them with the process of finding an Affordable Care Act plan or a new Medicare plan that is not a dual-eligible plan.
Remember, not all clients will lose their eligibility, but it’s important to be aware in order to assist clients that may need help finding new coverage.
Partner with Food Banks
Now’s a fantastic time to partner with local food banks in your area. We suggest notifying your clients of food assistance options in their area. There are resources available if they have difficulty securing food. Feeding America has a tool on their website that allows anyone to search for food banks in their area.
There are many benefits for both clients and your business by partnering with a local food bank. Other than just providing nutrition to clients, it’s an excellent way to help make your brand well known in your area and build relationships with clients. We recommend giving back to establish trust in your community.
Consider Plans That Offer Supplemental Assistance
A large portion of individuals affected by the ending of the PHE are over age 65. Due to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase, some older individuals could have lost their SNAP benefits entirely. To assist those who may see a decrease in or loss of their benefits, consider offering Medicare Advantage (MA) plans that offer supplemental assistance.
In 2020, some MA plans began providing additional supplemental benefits in the form of a Medicare Food Allowance. Most Chronic Condition Special Needs Plans (C-SNPs) and Dual-Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNPs) also include a grocery benefit that can be used to purchase healthy food items. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat can be purchased using this benefit.
Like Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) used with SNAP, Medicare food allowance is also a prepaid card that is reloaded monthly or quarterly.
We suggest contracting with carriers who offer these benefits in order to assist clients who may face food insecurity after the end of the PHE.
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The health insurance industry is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up with the most recent changes. That’s why, at Ritter, we’ve assembled a team of knowledgeable sales reps who can help you navigate policy changes, trends in the industry, and the unique needs of every client. For suggestions about carriers to contract with to provide a Medicare Food Allowance and more, contact your sales specialist today.