Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rhode Island Becomes First State to Get Global Medicaid Waiver

Rhode Island's governor announced yesterday that the state has finalized a "landmark" deal with federal regulators that may result in far-reaching changes to Medicaid coverage of nursing homes, prescription drugs, group homes for the disabled and transportation for the elderly.

"The agreement gives the state unprecedented authority to restructure Medicaid programs, which are now closely regulated by the federal government. In exchange, Rhode Island has agreed to limit Medicaid spending over the next five years to roughly $12.075 billion, which is about $375 million less than state negotiators had hoped." The governor believes the current cost of Medicaid programs is "simply unsustainable", and that the new deal will allow the state to better control costs while improving service to residents. Last year, Medicaid paid for services for 180,000 disabled, elderly and low-income state residents.

Medicaid consumes roughly 25% of the total state budget, about $1.8 billion in state and federal spending this year. Currently, the federal government pays about 52 cents of every dollar spent on Medicaid programs in Rhode Island. Critics of the new deal fear that if the state spends its five-year limit too soon, "it would be forced to slash programs or pay for them only with state funds." More.

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