Rhode Island Waiver – Model or Sweetheart Deal? – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

Proponents of block granting Medicaid have been pointing
to Rhode Island’s Section 1115 research and demonstration waiver that includes
a global cap on federal spending as evidence of the success of this
approach.  But as an article that
appears in yesterday’s New York Times underscores, this analogy is just
another example of the “fact free” policy discussions that pervade our
political discourse.  There is no
hard evidence at all to document claims about how much money the state has

Rhode Island received approval for its proposal in the
waning days of the Bush Administration and the spending agreement reached was a
cushy deal for the state. Not only did the state get to substitute federal
funds for some previously state-only funded programs, the federal spending cap
was set at a very high level. Do we really think that current block grant
proponents who are in it for budget cutting purposes would similarly increase
federal spending under a block grant arrangement? I am a huge fan of Rhode Island
(for personal and professional reasons) and mean no disrespect here, but
remember the state’s nickname is “Little Rhody”- it is the smallest state in
the country.  I sincerely doubt
that a similar deal would be offered by block grant proponents to all 50 states
who want to reduce federal spending sharply.

If Rhode Island is coming up as a model in your state, I
urge you to check out this great piece by our colleagues at the Center on
Budget and Policy Priorities
which lays out these issues in greater detail. I suspect that this is not the last we’ll hear about the Rhode Island waiver.

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