(NASHVILLE) — State Representative Dan Howell (R–Georgetown) has scored a major win with the official passage of legislation designed to combat welfare fraud in Tennessee. Once passed by the Senate, the bill will travel to the desk of Governor Bill Haslam to be signed into law.
House Bill 227, referred to as the Program Integrity Act, is the result of over two years of work between Representative Howell and the Department of Human Services (DHS) and TennCare. As passed, the important legislation gives these departments more tools in the toolbox to help reduce welfare fraud across the state.
Specifically, the bill creates a new system of enhanced verification in Tennessee, requiring DHS to conduct quarterly data matches and crosscheck this data in various ways to help eliminate fraudulent payments that are being made. As society becomes more mobile, the bill allows DHS to explore joining a multistate cooperative for identifying individuals who currently receive Tennessee benefits but who live in other states.
“As people move, get jobs and get married, pass away, or simply falsify their economic statuses, the new computerized crosscheck system created by House Bill 227 will help ensure those who are receiving benefits are only those who actually qualify for the programs and who genuinely need state assistance,” said Representative Howell.
In addition to the new enhanced verification system, the legislation also directs the Tennessee Department of Lottery to report to DHS, on a monthly basis, the name, prize amount, and any other identifying information of welfare recipients who win a prize of $5,000 or more. While this rule is already in federal statute requiring welfare recipients to self-report this information, this change simply adds an extra layer of security to the process by adding that the Department of Lottery will also report this information to the state.
“As lawmakers, we must be willing to make hard decisions to ensure Tennessee taxpayer dollars are protected,” continued Howell. “This legislation helps do exactly that and I am honored to have the opportunity to shepherd this bill through the legislative process.”
In Tennessee, studies estimate the state loses approximately $123 million per year in fraudulent payments to people who are not actually qualified to receive benefits.
The full text of House Bill 227 can be found by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB0227.pdf.