Welfare and Health Care Reform

One of the best pieces of evidence that Washington is changing its ways becoming a partner with communities instead of a know-it-all -- is its willingness to clear the way for welfare reform. We all have the same goal, to make welfare a hand-up to a decent life, instead of a hand-out for life. But there are different ways to get there. While Congress was debating the different ways over the past few years, the President let states try them to see what worked best. The Clinton Administration has approved welfare demonstration projects in more than 40 states twice as many as the previous two administrations combined.(12)

The new, national welfare reform legislation incorporates many of the good ideas being tried by the states. The Indiana welfare reform plan, which is typical of the scores of demonstration projects approved by the Clinton Administration, puts 12,000 able-bodied welfare recipients on a "placement track" where they get special help finding a job -- including subsidies for employers. Parents have to keep their kids in school and get them immunized. Adults receive up to two years of special help finding a job, then their welfare benefits run out. Children's benefits continue, but there are no new benefits for additional children conceived on welfare. The President approved Indiana's plan in late 1994, and between March of 1995 and March of 1996, Indiana's welfare rolls dropped by 22 percent.(13)

President Clinton has done the same thing for states wanting to try health care reforms. Tennessee, for example, can now expand health care coverage to over 400,000 people who were previously uninsured. To date, the President has approved 13 comprehensive health care reform demonstrations similar to Tennessee's working in partnership with states to increase the use of managed care, improve the quality of care, and expand coverage to 2.2 million low-income uninsured Americans.

These are not Washington's latest bright ideas being imposed on communities. They are ideas from the communities themselves -- from the people who understand the problems best and who will live with the results. To be fair, Washington does have some experts with a wealth of experience to share and, of course, the financial resources that communities need. But now, communities don't have to follow Washington's rules to get Washington's money. It is the people's money and Washington is becoming the people's partner.

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