Support for Medicaid Rate Increases for Social and Human Service

Last updated: April 25, 2024

Testimony relating to H 7225 - Budget Article 9, Section 6
Support for Medicaid Rate Increases for Social and Human Service Programs
Senate Committee on Finance
April 11, 2024
Divya Nair, Policy Analyst, Economic Progress Institute

The Economic Progress Institute supports the Medicaid rate increases for Early Intervention and recommends mandating the existing rates for First Connections underlined in Article 9, Section 6 of H 7225.

Rhode Island parents and babies deserve to have the support they need to have healthy outcomes. Early Intervention and First Connections are critical programs that connect families with babies and young children with disabilities and developmental delays to educational and developmental supports.

Rhode Island’s Early Intervention program provides free developmental and educational support for children under three. The proposed rate increase to Early Intervention would address the staffing crisis and extended waiting lists that children and families are currently facing. As of November 2023, there were over 700 infants and toddlers waiting for Early Intervention services for more than 45 days, in violation of federal and state requirements.1 The proposed rate increase would address the noncompetitive wages and inadequate staffing that have led to these waiting lists and prevented children and families from accessing the support they need.

First Connections is a home-visiting program that provides holistic, comprehensive, and free services to high-risk moms and babies. Families enrolled in evidence-based home visiting have lower rates of preterm births and investigations for child maltreatment once enrolled.2 Additionally, utilizing family visiting services is proven to reduce the likelihood of future engagement in state or federally funded public benefit programs, thus being a cost-effective investment.3 However, the rate increase for First Connections program in the proposed FY25 budget would reduce resources, causing increased financial challenges and fewer services for new families. We recommend making the existing First Connections Medicaid rates permanent rather than the proposed rate cut.

These programs are critical resources for our most vulnerable children and families, and due to a lack of funding they are likely to reduce services. The Economic Progress Institute urges the  committee to consider higher rate increases and a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Early Intervention and First Connections programs.

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