An official website of the United States Government -


State Medicaid programs must comply with federal requirements, but states seeking additional flexibility can apply for formal waivers of some of these requirements from the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). For example, states can use waivers to offer an alternative benefit plan to a subset of Medicaid beneficiaries, to restrict enrollees to a specific network of providers, or to extend coverage to groups beyond those defined in Medicaid law. The extensive use of waivers (every state now has at least one Medicaid waiver agreement in place) has contributed to wide variations in program design, covered services, and eligible populations among states and even within states.

Learn More about These Topics

Featured Publications

Recent Developments in Section 1115 Demonstration Waivers: Implications for Future Policy

December 8, 2022

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently approved several large-scale Section 1115 demonstration waivers that allow states to test the efficacy of new approaches to delivering Medicaid services and improving population health. These include changes to eligibility rules, benefit coverage, and measures to address the social determinants of health and health-related social […]

Section 1115 Demonstration Budget Neutrality

December 21, 2021

Medicaid spending under Section 1115 demonstrations is required to be budget neutral, meaning that federal spending under the demonstration cannot exceed projected costs in the absence of the demonstration (referred to as the without-waiver baseline). If state spending under its demonstration is below the without-waiver baseline, the difference is considered savings. The state can use […]

Testing New Program Features through Section 1115 Waivers

June 26, 2020

Section 1115 waivers allow states to test approaches to coverage that are not allowed under traditional Medicaid. Under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can waive almost any Medicaid state plan requirement under Section 1902 of the Act to the extent necessary to […]