House votes to expand checks of income for those on TennCare, welfare

Hundreds of thousands of Tennessee adults who are receive TennCare coverage, food stamps and/or welfare will face enhanced income-verification process that regularly checks their incomes against other state and federal databases under a bill that cleared the state House Monday night, reports the Times-Free Press.

The GOP-majority House approved the measure (HB227), sponsored by Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, on a largely partisan 73-21 vote.

Howell said the bill is intended to detect fraud and ensure benefits are going to those who truly need it while saving taxpayers money.

One feature of the legislation would require the Tennessee Education Lottery to send monthly data on all lottery players who win $5,000 or more jackpots to the state Human Services Department.

The department determines eligibility for TennCare (Medicaid), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (welfare) programs.

Democrats spent their time largely questioning the lottery-related impacts on families in which a parent or caretaker plays and wins larger lottery awards that could cost them their benefits.

Howell argued that lottery winners on state and federally-subsidized social programs are already supposed to self report and his bill simply ensures it’s properly done.

Speaking later with a reporter, Howell appeared a little surprised that no one got into the overall aspects of his bill, called the “Program Integrity Act of 2017.”

“That [cross checking lottery winner database] is just a small part of it,” Howell said. “What we’ve done is create enhanced verification.”

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