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Wall St Journal praises RI’s global Medicaid waiver

March 28, 2011

Last week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a report discouraging states from trying to copy Rhode Island’s global Medicaid waiver. This week, The Wall Street Journal is encouraging them.

In an editorial published today, the paper calls the waiver the right path for reforming the nation’s program fro the poor, elderly, and disabled-

Waivers like this are how Governors like Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin and John Engler of Michigan led the way in reforming welfare in the 1990s. If Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the cost of entitlements, they’ll grant a Rhode Island-style waiver to any state that requests one.

Some of the information in this editorial is lifted directly from former DHS director Gary Alexander’s unauthorized report on the waiver, including this statement which was eventually removed from Alexander’s final draft-

…according to one of Mr. Carcieri’s deputies, at one point a health administrator in Washington asked: “If you get this waiver, what will our job be?

The editorial also implies that the state reduced its Medicaid spending significantly due to the waiver-

After 18 months, Rhode Island’s Medicaid spending, which was projected to reach $3.8 billion, has declined to $2.7 billion.

Gary Alexander’s report claims the waiver saved around 110 million dollars in its first 18 months of implementation, but the current Executive Office of Health and Human Services still hasn’t released official numbers on how much the waiver has saved.  In fact, the department doesn’t know where Alexander’s numbers came from.

Media Matters for America, a progressive research center devoted to “correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media” references the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report on RI’s waiver and calls the WSJ editorial “dubious” hype.

The Wall Street Journal stated that “[i]f Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the cost of entitlements, they’ll grant a Rhode Island-style [Medicaid] waiver to any state that requests one.” However, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has stated that claims touting the Rhode Island waiver as a model for other states “generally do not withstand scrutiny.”

One thing is for certain- our global waiver has become some sort of battle ground for conservatives and progressives, with the validity/facts of Gary Alexander’s report in the center of the debate.

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