Trapped in America's Safety Net

Trapped in America's Safety Net

One Family's Struggle

Andrea Louise Campbell

Despite their neediness, many people who are eligible for means-tested programs don’t enroll. “Take-up” rates are very low. Over 60 percent of American children who lack health insurance are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but aren’t enrolled. 15 Only 72 percent of those eligible for food stamps are enrolled (and only 34 percent of eligible senior citizens are). Complicated application procedures and confusing eligibility criteria are one barrier: many only seek information about these programs and fight their way in when they’re truly desperate, like Dave and Marcella. Outreach efforts are often modest in scope (and vary by state and by program). And the enduring stigma surrounding means-tested programs reduces take-up rates as well.

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