CHATTANOOGA – TennCare enrollees who hit the jackpot playing the Tennessee Lottery may not be as lucky as they think. Winnings over $600 must be reported to the state’s health care program for the poor and disabled, or the enrollee risks a fraud investigation. “People need to know that lottery winnings count as income,” TennCare Bureau spokeswoman Marilyn Elam said. TennCare’s 1.3 million enrollees always have been required to report any change in income. The new twist is the lottery, which began this year. “A $20 win is not going to affect your eligibility but winning several thousand dollars could. If you don’t report the income and it does affect your eligibility, that could be grounds for fraud,” Elam said. Tony Garr, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, an advocate for TennCare enrollees, said TennCare hasn’t done a good job of getting the word out about reporting lottery winnings. “I don’t think that is on the enrollees’ radar screens,” he said. Elam said enrollees are told when they join the plan that they are responsible for reporting any additional sources of income to the Department of Human Services. They also receive reminders on the bottom of form letters and benefits explanations mailed to them. Although some Tenn-Care enrollees have had their status changed because of lottery winnings, Elam cited federal privacy laws in declining to say how many. Lottery winners are responsible for paying the federal taxes on winnings up to $4,999. On payouts of $5,000 or more, the Lottery Corp. takes out federal taxes before giving the payout to the winners. TennCare and Department of Human Services officials have access to claims forms filed by Tennessee Lottery winners. The forms are cross-checked with welfare and TennCare rolls to determine if the winnings affect eligibility, if the winners have outstanding student loans or child support payments, or if they’ve received overpayments of food stamps or welfare benefits, Elam said.
Tennessee Welfare Lottery Winners