I-TEAM: Why some people are suddenly losing government benefits

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CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio -- The FOX 8 I-TEAM has found that many people are getting alarming news about their government benefits in the mail just days before Christmas; they’re getting notices saying they are losing those benefits.

This is a big blow to some folks most in need. And, that led us to investigate.

We met a northeast Ohio man who’d recently found out he’d be getting a little more money from social security. But now, he’s losing his government medical coverage. He said his increase in social security puts him $13 over the limit to be eligible for Medicaid.

He told us, "And its $13 over the state limit of income, and therefore, I lost my health insurance.”

We also met two women going to see their caseworkers at a Cuyahoga County social services building. Both said they recently got increases in social security, then they got notices about cuts in food stamps.

Tricia Krates said, "As a parent especially, you don't have any money, and you can't feed your kids. You panic.”

We found all kinds of government agencies tied up in this. But the I-TEAM wondered, for example, here in Cuyahoga County, what are local leaders doing about it? Can they do anything?

Cuyahoga County officials call it a “huge problem.” They said it happens nationwide every time there’s a social security cost of living change. It affects people receiving Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, and more. Citizens can ask for a hearing, but when federal limits are set, caseworkers often can’t do much.

Often county caseworkers end up referring people affected by this to other public and private agencies for help.

The man losing his Medicaid benefits said he’s now searching for other insurance.

He said, "So a bump that’s meant to help individuals is actually devastating families."

The county said caseworkers have to follow federal guidelines with benefits. If not, the federal government can later penalize the county for not following rules.

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