HARRISBURG–The number of Pennsylvanians seeking government assistance is on the increase, according to state officials.
A total of 3,105,219 people were enrolled in the Medicaid program in October, an increase of 29,053 since September 2020. Enrollment statewide for Medicaid has increased by 273,656 people since February 2020 — a 9.7 percent increase.
Enrollment for SNAP statewide has increased by 118,510 people since February, for a total enrollment of about 1,855,969 in October — a 6.8 percent increase. Enrollment in SNAP decreased by 10,645 between September and October, primarily because of a reinstatement of semi-annual renewals required by the federal government.
Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller reminded residents that safety-net programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid are available to individuals and families who are struggling to afford food or access health care.
“2020 had been a hard year for all of us, but I want to remind any Pennsylvanian who may be struggling through these tough times that they are not alone. No one should ever feel that they have to go hungry or go without health care, especially during the holiday season – help is always available,” Miller said. “Public assistance programs are here, in good times and in bad times, for any family that may need extra help to make ends meet. I encourage any Pennsylvanians who may need help to reach out and apply. Applying for these programs is an act of advocacy for yourself and your family.”
Gov. Tom Wolf’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility in 2015 through the Affordable Care Act has helped approximately 160,000 Pennsylvanians through this pandemic by keeping their access to health care intact. Currently, approximately 871,000 Pennsylvanians have health coverage because of Medicaid expansion.
Pennsylvanians who have lost health coverage or are currently uninsured and need coverage for themselves or their children may qualify for coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicaid and CHIP provide coverage for routine and emergency health services, tests and screenings, and prescriptions, and COVID-19 testing and treatment are covered by both Medicaid and CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP enroll individuals throughout the year and do not have a limited or special enrollment time, so people needing health coverage can apply for these programs at any time. There are income limits for Medicaid, but all children qualify for coverage through CHIP regardless of a household’s income.
SNAP helps nearly 1.9 million Pennsylvanians purchase fresh food and groceries, helping families with limited or strained resources be able to keep food on the table while meeting other bills and needs. 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.
SNAP recipients can also use online purchasing to use SNAP funds for grocery delivery or for prepayment of curbside pick-up at certain retailers. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania joined a pilot program from the federal government allowing SNAP recipients to purchase food online through certain approved retailers like Walmart, Amazon, the Fresh Grocer, and Shoprite. Funds can only be used for food products and not processing fees or tips.
Applications for SNAP, Medicaid, 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 or place it in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. You do not need to know your own eligibility in order to apply. 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.
Pennsylvanians who need health insurance who do not qualify for Medicaid can explore coverage options through Pennie, the commonwealth’s health insurance exchange. Open enrollment for 2021 plans continues through January 15, 2021. Pennsylvanians can learn more at www.pennie.com.
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.