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About Section 1115 Demonstrations

Section 1115 of the Social Security Act gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to approve experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects that are found by the Secretary to be likely to assist in promoting the objectives of the Medicaid program. The purpose of these demonstrations, which give states additional flexibility to design and improve their programs, is to demonstrate and evaluate state-specific policy approaches to better serving Medicaid populations.

CMS performs a case-by-case review of each proposal to determine whether its stated objectives are aligned with those of Medicaid. CMS also considers whether proposed waiver and/or expenditures authorities are appropriate and consistent with federal policies, including the degree to which they supplant state-only costs for existing programs or services and can and should be supported through other federal and non-Federal funding sources.

Demonstrations must also be "budget neutral" to the Federal government, which means that, during the course of the project, Federal Medicaid expenditures will not be more than Federal spending without the demonstration. CMS policy (PDF, 453.97 KB) requires the demonstration's budget ceiling to be rebased using recent cost data and growth trends at every extension, and will also limit carry-forward of accumulated savings from one approval period to the next.

Generally, section 1115 demonstrations are approved for an initial five-year period and can be extended for up to an additional three to five years, depending on the populations served. States commonly request and receive additional 5-year extension approvals. Certain demonstrations that have had at least one full extension cycle without substantial program changes will be eligible for CMS’ "fast track (PDF, 111.36 KB)" review process for demonstration extensions. For more information on the fast track federal review process for section 1115 Medicaid and CHIP demonstration extensions, visit the How States Apply page.