This report examines the impact of using Medicaid data to directly certify students for free and reduced-price school meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs in 15 states in school year 2017-18.
Unlike other direct certification methods with programs that confer eligibility for free school meals (e.g., with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administrative data), Medicaid participation does not confer categorical eligibility. Rather, income data from the state Medicaid agency must be matched to student records to determine eligibility. Medicaid comes last in the hierarchy of direct certification. Students are only directly certified with Medicaid if they are not identified using another program.
Key findings include:
- Similar to SY 2016-17, DCM-F/RP resulted in an incremental increase in the number and percentage of students certified for free and reduced-price meals, but effects varied across states. In total, 1,019,865 students were certified for free meals and 258,893 students were certified for reduced-price meals using Medicaid data through DCM-F/RP in SY 2017-18. Changes in certification rates were not, however, associated with corresponding changes in participation or reimbursement rates.
- A substantial group of students identified by DCM-F/RP were likely already certified for free meals via application; in these cases, the demonstration alleviated administrative burden on both households and school food authorities by reducing the need to complete and process applications by hand.
- Implementation of DCM-F/RP was generally successful, but with longer timelines than expected. Administrative costs to state agencies involved in the demonstrations were modest during start-up and largely negligible following implementation.