Lawmakers pass bill out of committee to spend millions on more screenings for Medicaid and SNAP recipients

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Welfare Reform Act of 2017 would dramatically increase how people are screened to receive Medicaid and SNAP benefits.

The author of the bill told the Rules Committee on Tuesday that this is a preventative measure to make sure people don’t abuse the system.

But opponents say it’s an expensive solution looking for a problem.

Under the proposed bill, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and DHS would be required to screen anyone who gets benefits every three months, to make sure they’re really eligible.

Right now, these checks happen once a year.

“It’s just a wasteful bill,” Rep. David Perryman said.

Rep. Perryman calls the bill unnecessary.

In the committee meeting Tuesday, the bill’s author, Rep. Elise Hall, admitted she didn’t know of any fraud in our state.

Rep. Melodye Blancett asked her, “In the most recent audits these agencies have done, has there been evidence of substantial inappropriate receipt of these benefits?”

Rep. Hall replied, “I have not viewed these audits, so I’m not aware. Nobody from these agencies has come to visit with me. This was legislation looking at what other states have done.”

The bill is being pushed by a national group.

Rep. Elise Hall referenced someone in another state had won the lottery and was still on welfare.

Rep. Steve Kouplen asked, “Is there a state you can name and give specific details of how much it cost it to implement this program and how much it saved the state?”

Hall replied, “Like I said, I don’t have that data in front of me. I didn’t receive it before the committee,” Rep. Hall said.

DHS says it would have to hire another 400-500 employees to conduct these screenings, and it would cost $9-11 million.

“The agency is already overworked, overburdened and underpaid,” Rep. Perryman said.

Four republican members voted yes on the bill, and they all refused to talk to NewsChannel 4.

The bill passed out of committee 4-3 and heads to the floor.