Medicaid Formula: Differences in Funding Ability among States Often Are Widened

GAO-03-620 Published: Jul 10, 2003. Publicly Released: Aug 11, 2003.
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A primary goal in establishing Medicaid's statutory formula, whereby states with lower per capita incomes (PCI) receive higher rates of federal reimbursement for program costs, was to narrow differences among states in their ability to fund Medicaid services. States' ability to fund services depends on their financial resources in relation to their number of and costs to serve people in poverty. GAO and others have testified before Congress that the current formula does not address wide differences among states in their ability to fund their Medicaid programs and that the formula's reliance on PCI is the primary cause. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which the formula narrows these differences and to identify factors that impede further narrowing of differences. To evaluate the extent to which the formula narrows differences in states' funding ability, GAO used an alternative to PCI that more directly measures states' resources, number of people in poverty, and cost of providing services to this population. Using this measure, GAO determined the effect of the current formula by comparing states' funding ability before and after receiving their federal matching aid. If differences in funding ability were eliminated, the formula would have reduced differences by 100 percent.

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