UPDATE: With comment from DPW Sec. Alexander.

Is Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander the savings wizard he's made out to be?

Gov. Corbett appointed Alexander to the post as chief of this huge agency in no small part because of the fiscal magic he worked in Rhode Island where he held a comparable position.

In a statement announcing his appointment Corbett said Alexander has "just the kind of experience we need right now in Pennsylvania."

Now a new report concludes the Rhode Island Medicaid savings touted by Alexander were not quite what they were cracked up to be.

The report, by the independent Lewin Group, examined Rhode Island's Global Medicaid Waiver and found that $22.9 million in savings, not the $100 million claimed by Alexander, according to The Providence Business News.

Alexander countered today that the Global Waiver brought "much success."

"The bottom line is that the waiver has saved millions of dollars (both federal and state funds), maintained benefits, added transparency to the system and created a new approach of community-based care, creating an innovative, effective and efficient Medicaid system for Rhode Island," said Alexander in a statement.

Advocates in Rhode Island say the waiver not only didn't save much money, it was unnecessary.

"Most everything that the waiver purported to bring about could have been done without the Global Waiver,” Linda Katz, policy director at the Poverty Institute, told the newspaper. “The trend moving seniors and people with disabilities to provide more options in the community instead of nursing facilities was something that was underway before the Global Waiver was announced.”

(The report is posted on the Rhode Island state health and human services web site

In the Pennsylvania state budget signed into law by Corbett last summer, Alexander promised $400 million in savings in DPW this fiscal year.

And he's made plenty of cuts, removing people from public health rolls among them.

At last count 150,000 people — including 43,000 children — have been removed from medical assistance for the poor and disabled. The Corbett administration says the individuals were taken off because they were dead, moved or were otherwise no longer eligible, a claim contested by advocates who add that the demand for services has grown.

Alexander said his priority is to focus on making Pennsylvania's programs "more efficient and cost-effective," while keeping the primary goal in mind:  "to continue to provide a safety net to the truly needy here in Pennsylvania."

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