Is it possible to make "easy" cuts to human services spending by attacking waste, fraud, and abuse?

February 18, 2014

Is it possible to make "easy" cuts to human services spending by attacking waste, fraud, and abuse?

Illinois has experienced a long run of cuts to its human services programs, yet still more cuts may be needed if new revenue or savings in other areas do not materialize. The view that many "welfare" recipients are gaming or exploiting the system is a popular one with the public. The promise to get tough on waste, fraud, and abuse is an appealing alternative to across-the-board cuts in human services or to reducing or eliminating specific benefits or programs.

This article discusses why indiscriminately “scrubbing” the program rolls may yield disappointing results, as was the state’s recent experience with Medicaid. Alternative approaches may have multiple advantages, such as meaningful reform of the state’s human services contracting system, modernizing and harmonizing state administrative systems, and leveraging data to flag suspicious cases and to target scrutiny. These alternatives may be preferable to policies whose sole focus is rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse at the recipient level.


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Research Area: Fiscal Health of Illinois

Policy Initiative: none

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