The Application for Benefits Eligibility (ABE)
An introduction to the new web portal for Medicaid, SNAP and cash assistance
Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services
Illinois Department of Human Services
To help you become familiar with ABE, the Application for Benefits Eligibility, the State of Illinois' new web-based application portal for Medicaid, SNAP and cash benefits, we have developed this overview. ABE will launch on October 1, 2013.
A few notes on recent changes to the Illinois Medicaid program before we begin:
- Throughout this document "Medicaid" refers to all health coverage programs provided by HFS, including All Kids; FamilyCare; AABD; the new ACA Adult group, coverage for undocumented pregnant women and children; and other health coverage financed by HFS using only State funds.
- Beginning October 1, 2013, individuals and families traditionally eligible for Medicaid can use ABE to apply and get coverage right away. Those immediately eligible, including three months of coverage retroactive from the month of application, are:
- Parents and other caretaker relatives raising dependent children
- Pregnant women
- Persons with Disabilities
- Blind Persons
- Beginning October 1, 2013, members of two new eligibility groups - ACA Adults and Former Foster Children - may begin applying for Medicaid coverage through ABE - for coverage beginning January 1, 2014.
- Beginning October 1, we are also applying new federal Medicaid eligibility rules, including the new Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) standard. The ABE Application includes new questions on household composition, tax filing status and income.
- SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) and cash benefits, including TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, are immediately available through ABE.
If you have used either the All Kids/FamilyCare Online Application or the DHS Web Benefits Application, ABE application questions will be familiar, although some terms may have changed. ABE will replace both of these existing web applications. Existing web applications have been retired. Paper applications will still be accepted during the interim period.
In this overview, we will share screen shots of key pages in ABE so you know what to expect. The guide does not include every page in ABE.
What is ABE?
- ABE stands for Application for Benefits Eligibility, Illinois' new combined online application.
- Anyone can apply for Medicaid, SNAP and cash benefits through ABE.
- ABE also offers an "Am I Eligible?" screening tool to determine if a person is likely eligible for benefits before completing a full application. The screening tool, however, is not a substitute for a full application.
- Applicants are also able to use ABE to upload verification documents to support their application. Note, documents may not be submitted online after an application is submitted.
- Applicants can save an application in process and return to it later.
- Community partners and Illinois Assisters (Navigators, In-Person Counselors and Certified Application Agents) can help someone complete an application in ABE. The organization or individual Assister should register in ABE so that the State can track the number of Applicants served by each organization or Assister.
- All Kids Application Agents (AKAAs) may submit benefits applications on behalf of Applicants for all programs - Medical, SNAP and cash. More information on registering as an AKAA will be provided separately.
- MPE Providers who are enrolled with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to presumptively enroll pregnant women in Medicaid may also use ABE.
- In the future, customers will be able to check their benefit status, make updates to their accounts and renew their benefits through ABE.
ABE & The Affordable Care Act
- ABE can be used by anyone in Illinois seeking Medicaid coverage, including new groups covered as a result of national health care reform under the Affordable Care Act.
- Beginning January 1, 2014, Illinois will cover two new eligibility groups under Medicaid. Individuals may begin applying through ABE on October 1, 2013. Coverage will not start until January 1, 2014.
- ACA Adults must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- adults age 19 through 64
- not otherwise eligible for other medical assistance
- no dependent children living with them
- not eligible for Medicare
- income at or below 138% FPL (a 5% income disregard is built in).
- Former Foster Care Young Adults:
- persons age 18 up to age 26 who were receiving Medicaid benefits when they aged out of the state foster care system, and are not otherwise eligible under Family Health Plans or AABD
- no income or resource test for this group.
- Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is the new national methodology for determining eligibility for Medicaid for children, parents or other caretaker relatives, pregnant women and ACA Adults. MAGI governs how states count income and household composition for these groups. It is similar to the way income is counted for federal income tax purposes. MAGI rules will not be used for AABD eligibility for seniors, blind persons or persons with disabilities.
- It is important to remind existing Medicaid recipients that Medicaid, including All Kids and FamilyCare, meets the ACA requirement for health coverage. There is no need for existing customers to reapply. There are no new or additional Medicaid benefits available to current recipients as a result of the ACA.
Is ABE the Right Place to Begin?
- ABE is always the right place to start to apply for SNAP or cash assistance.
- For Medicaid, begin an application in ABE if, based on the Applicant's income, you are fairly certain that they will qualify (part of a new eligibility group, current SNAP recipient, etc.).
- If you are not sure if the client is eligible for Medicaid, use the ABE "Am I Eligible" screening tool.
- If the Applicant is not likely to qualify for Medicaid, the best place to start is the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace to purchase private insurance. Financial help may be available through the Marketplace to help lower the cost of private insurance.
- You can learn more about the Illinois Marketplace and available financial assistance at www.Healthcare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596.
- There is no wrong door - an application received by the Marketplace that looks to be eligible for Medicaid will be sent to the State - and vice versa - applications found to be ineligible for Medicaid will be sent to the Marketplace.
Completing an Application in ABE
- We strongly encourage everyone - community partners, health care providers and the general public to apply for Medicaid online through ABE for the fastest service. ABE has a number of features to ensure that application data is transferred accurately and efficiently to caseworkers for processing.
- Applicants should include as much information as possible in their ABE application.
- Expect to spend 30 to 45 minutes completing an application for benefits.
- ABE is a "smart" application. It will dynamically "build" the application based on the benefits requested and answers to application questions.
- ABE does not replace the need for caseworker interviews for SNAP and cash benefits; Applicants will be contacted within 14 days for this interview. In most cases, interviews can be completed over the phone.
Navigating in ABE
Please review the following tips on navigating through ABE.
- Do not use the Internet browser's back, forward or stop buttons while in the application. Use the buttons provided at the bottom of each page of the application.
- Use the "Save & Exit" button to save the information already entered and return to the application later.
- Your ABE session will time-out after 15 minutes of inactivity. You will need to log-in again to continue.
The ABE Homepage
Key to the ABE Homepage:
- User ID and Login - Applicants who have already started or submitted an application can enter their User ID and password here to continue working or check their status. First-time users click the blue, "Apply for Benefits" button (#5) to create a User ID and password.
- MPE Providers and All Kids Agents have a separate log-in process (#2). They can also use this link to update registration information. More information about this process will be provided to these entities separately.
- To register as a Community Partner or Illinois Assister (those who have been certified as Navigators, In-Person Counselors (IPCs) or Certified Application Counselors (CACs)), or update community partner registration information, click on this "Community Partner" link (#3) or the blue, "Apply for Benefits" button (#5).
- To reach an anonymous screening questionnaire to help determine if a person is potentially eligible for benefits, click the blue "Am I Eligible" button (#4).
- To start a benefits application, click on the blue "Apply for Benefits" button (#5).
Starting a New Application
After an Applicant clicks "Apply for Benefits" they will be brought to this screen. To start a new application or to go on to create a User ID or password, click "Start a New Application" option.
Getting Started: Creating a User Account
The first time Applicants enter ABE, they will need to create an account so they can come back to ABE later to check their application status or save their information and return to the application later.
Getting Started: Creating a User Account
A Few Things about the Application Process
Acknowledge Penalties for False Information
The Applicant, not someone assisting with the application, should read and indicate understanding and acceptance of the Fraud Penalty Affidavit.
Indicate if someone is assisting with the application. If not, simply click "Next".
Select the Programs the Applicant is Applying For
ABE provides a detailed overview of available benefits. ABE will "customize" the application to gather only the information needed for the requested benefits.
Applicants will be asked identifying information. The red asterisks (*) indicate required information.
ABE will ask for several categories of information as indicated on the left-hand navigation bar. Applicants can save their data at any point and return to finish the application later. At the end of each data collection "module," the Applicant will review a summary of the information entered and have the opportunity to go back and make changes.
The following pages are just a sample of the types of questions included in ABE.
Data Collection: Examples
Completing the Application: Signing & Submitting
Applicants will be asked to review the Rights & Responsibilities for each benefit program applied for and electronically sign the application.
After clicking "Submit," the Applicant will be given a tracking number and the option of printing a copy of the application. The Applicant can log out or upload verification documents. Application verification documents or "proof" can only be submitted with the initial application by clicking "Next" from this page. If you navigating away from this page by choosing "Return to IES Home" or logging out, you cannot return to submit proof through ABE.
In cases where Applicants have social security numbers (SSN) for each person on the application [Note: SSNs cannot be required from those not applying for benefits, but are helpful], it is possible that additional proof may not be required since information can be verified electronically. The exception is if an Applicant's circumstances have changed recently and the electronic verification sources don't yet reflect those changes.
If someone does not have a SSN, that is alright, the application can still be processed. One of the great new features of ABE is the ability to securely submit verification documents with an application. Below are types of proof that may be necessary and the types of documents that may serve as proof to ensure the application is successfully processed.
An Applicant does not need to collect all of these documents to submit an ABE application. If the state needs additional information, it will send a written request to the Applicant.
Submitting Verification Documents
ABE will provide an upload screen for each document category selected on the previous page. Documents are associated with each person applying for benefits on the Application.
ABE & the Integrated Eligibility System (IES)
- The Integrated Eligibility System (IES) is the new caseworker portal for eligibility determination and case management.
- Once a customer submits an application in ABE, the status in ABE will change to "Submitted."
- At this point, a customer can no longer make changes to their application in ABE but they are able to view the information they submitted.
- The new application will appear in an electronic inbox where a caseworker will take it from the queue and register it. The application status in ABE will change to "In Process."
- The caseworker will schedule an interview with the customer, if necessary, and complete the data collection process. Interviews are required for SNAP and Cash Assistance.
- IES includes new electronic tools that interface with State and Federal data sources to verify information provided in the ABE Application. Applicants will be asked to provide required documentation for any information that cannot be verified electronically or to show proof of any information on the application that conflicts with electronic data such as a change in income due to a job loss or job change.
- The caseworker will then complete the determination of eligibility and the Applicant will receive a written notice of the decision in the mail. Applications for most Applicants who request but do not qualify for Medicaid will be automatically transferred to the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace and will be used to determine what financial help would be available to reduce the monthly costs of buying health insurance through the Marketplace.
Thank you for taking the time to review this overview and learn more about ABE - the Application for Benefits Eligibility. We hope you will find it a useful tool. If you have any questions about using ABE, please e-mail them to ABE.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Appendix: Appointing an Approved Representative
If the Applicant indicates on the application that an Approved Representative is applying on his or her behalf, the Applicant will be directed to this approval page to supply more information about their Approved Representative and will then provide an electronic signature.
Note: Approved Representatives receive copies of all correspondence related to the person's application and case and must continue to represent the individual until that status is revoked. Approved Representatives are also bound by federal and state law regarding conflict of interest and privacy and confidentiality of applicant information.