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By Juan Cole
After over three years of continuous Medicaid enrollment during the nation’s COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), the PHE officially ended on March 31, 2023, from a policy perspective. This signaled the end of the recertification pause for Medicaid beneficiaries that were guaranteed coverage under provisions in the COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress in 2020. States now have until the end of June 2024 to reexamine the eligibility of the approximately 93 million individuals on Medicaid, leaving millions of Americans at risk for losing coverage.
This follows a period when government agencies across the nation faced significant increases to social service benefits applications and renewal requests due largely to heightened public assistance needs during the PHE. This influx of activity made verifying income and employment, which is an essential step in benefit eligibility determinations,even more difficult. In fact, many agencies were tasked with serving more people in need than ever before, with the same or fewer resources than they had pre-pandemic, and with many caseworkers having to learn to work remotely.
Rather than shying away from the challenge, the Los Angeles County (L.A. County) Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) saw in the crisis an opportunity to innovate and improve its processes to better serve clients – through the pandemic and beyond. A case study from Equifax Workforce Solutions shows how L.A. County DPSS continued providing quick relief to those in need – serving one in three residents in the nation’s largest county by population – with help from The Work Number®.
Leveraging The Work Number to resolve cases at point of first contact
Despite the influx of applications at the onset of the pandemic, L.A. County DPSS knew that resolving cases at the point of first contact would allow the agency to continue timely access to its services. This helped lay the groundwork for continuous process improvement at the organization.
Because even under “normal” circumstances, hand-delivering paystubs or uploading income and employment information to a web portal can be a challenge for many applicants. Part of the solution for L.A. County was to improve its income and employment verifications process. While L.A. County had already been using The Work Number, with the help of Equifax Government Solutions, it invested time into fully training employees on the service and enabling them to fully leverage the database to achieve benefit determinations at the point of first contact.
With help from The Work Number, L.A. County enabled caseworkers to fulfill more determinations at the point of first contact while minimizing the need for requesting additional information or documentation from the applicants. Since expanding access for caseworkers to The Work Number, among other solutions, L.A. County has realized 70-80 percent same-day eligibility determinations for renewals – and other agencies may be able to do the same.
As state and local social service agencies work through their respective processes for tackling eligibility redeterminations, they can benefit by leveraging The Work Number service to enable instantaneous verifications of income and employment, with data as current as of the most recent payroll cycle processed by employer and payroll provider data furnishers. By accessing The Work Number, the largest commercial source of consolidated employment and income information, social service agencies can verify an individual's income and employment information and determine whether an enrollee continues to meet eligibility requirements as the traditional recertification requirements go back into effect.