Thousands of Iowa residents would be expected to lose Medicaid and food stamp benefits under a bill given final legislative approval Thursday and sent to Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The state House approved the bill, which would change eligibility requirements and require more checks that people qualify for benefits, ultimately resulting in the removal of an estimated 1% of recipients and saving the state roughly $8 million annually beginning in 2027. A legislative analysis found that 1% would translate to the removal of about 8,000 Medicaid recipients and 2,800 recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.
The Senate previously approved the measure, which passed both chambers with only Republican support. The bill now goes to Reynolds, a Republican who is expected to sign it into law.
Republican Rep. Joel Fry said the bill takes nothing away from people who are eligible for benefits.
“If you’re eligible for the benefit, you will receive the benefit,” Fry said. “It protects the program for those who need it most, and I would suggest to you that we are creating a safety net today that is sustainable for the long term.”
Democrats had argued the bill would remove qualified recipients and create more barriers for Iowans who already are struggling with high food and housing costs. They focused on cuts to SNAP and noted that a high percentage of the program’s recipients are children and disabled people.
Rep. Joel Fry, center, carries a box from his desk on June 5, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. Thousands of Iowa residents would be expected to lose food stamp and Medicaid benefits under a bill given final legislative approval on April 13, 2023. Fry said the bill takes nothing away from people who are eligible for the benefits. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
“This bill will remove people from SNAP due to discrepancies,” said Democratic Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell. “Imagine, children losing food because their parents invert some numbers or put the wrong information in the wrong column.”
Democrats also pointed to a legislative analysis that estimated the changes would result in a loss of $42 million in federal funding in Iowa by 2027.
The bill would not allow SNAP benefits to any household with more than $15,000 in liquid assets and personal property. An applicant’s home as well as one car of any value and a second car of less than $10,000 value would not be included in that cap.
The measure is a change from current law, which has income caps but no restriction on assets.
State agencies would be required to use a variety of federal sources, including Internal Revenue Service and Social Security data, to ensure people seeking aid are eligible. Applicants also would face more regular checks to determine whether they are eligible for benefits and would lose their aid if they didn’t respond to questions from the state within 10 days.
A private company would likely be hired to administer the new rules.
Besides those who lose Medicaid and SNAP benefits, a legislative analysis found that hundreds of others would likely be dropped from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers children whose families don’t qualify for Medicaid, and the Family Investment Program, which provides temporary cash assistance to families.