Date:  September 30, 2002

For Release:  Immediately

Contact:  HHS Press Office

(202) 690-6343

 

Headline:  SECRETARY THOMPSON URGES CONGRESS

TO PASS PRESIDENT'S PLAN TO ASSIST UNINSURED

 

Citing a new report showing the number of uninsured Americans increased in

2001, Secretary

Tommy G. Thompson today called on Congress to approve President Bush's plan

to provide access to quality health care to those families who need it most.

 

President Bush has offered a comprehensive approach to providing health care

for all Americans in his fiscal year 2003 budget request for the Department

of Health and Human Services. In his budget request, the President

aggressively seeks to increase access to health insurance through health

credits and expanded eligibility under the State Children's Health Insurance

Program (SCHIP) and Medicaid programs, in addition to his long-term goal of

doubling the number of community health centers nationwide.

 

"The President has introduced a visionary, multi-layered proposal to

increase access to quality health care for all Americans," Secretary

Thompson said. "He is proposing more community health clinics, health

credits and more freedom for states to extend insurance to those who need

it. As this new report shows, we simply cannot afford to wait any longer.

Congress must act quickly to approve the President's plan to assist American

families who lack access to health care."

 

Health Credits

 

The President has proposed a series of health credits that will help

families who don't have other insurance to secure the health care that they

need.  Under the President's plan, families with two or more children and

incomes under $25,000 could receive up to $3,000 in credits to cover the

cost of buying health insurance. Individuals earning up to $15,000 a year

could receive a $1,000 credit.

 

            This health credit also could be used to purchase private

insurance through purchasing groups and state-sponsored insurance pools --

such as SCHIP or state employee pools. The health credit plan alone would

help an estimated 6 million previously uninsured Americans get health

insurance.

 

Increased Flexibility

 

Additionally, as former governors, President Bush and Secretary Thompson

have made it a priority to make it simpler and easier for governors to

submit Medicaid and SCHIP waiver requests and to have those requests

considered promptly -- especially to help children.  Since January 2001, HHS

has approved waivers and plan amendments that have expanded eligibility to

more than 2 million people and enhanced benefits for more than 6 million

people.

 

In addition, HHS' budget proposal also would strengthen the SCHIP program by

allowing states to use an estimated $3.2 billion in unused funds that

otherwise would return to the federal treasury.  These additional matching

funds will enable all states to expand coverage to the uninsured - in

addition to the more than 4 million children covered under SCHIP today.

 

Additionally, HHS has developed the Health Insurance Flexibility and

Accountability (HIFA) Initiative, a Medicaid and SCHIP waiver approach that

gives states greater ability to design health insurance programs to meet the

health insurance needs of their low-income populations.

 

Secretary Thompson launched the HIFA initiative last year to encourage

states to expand access to health care coverage for low-income individuals

through Medicaid and SCHIP demonstrations. The initiative gives states more

flexibility to coordinate these companion programs and offers a simpler

application for states that commit to reducing the number of people without

health insurance. HIFA also encourages coordination between public and

private coverage options for the uninsured.

 

Community Health Centers

 

The 2003 budget requests $1.5 billion -- a $114 million increase -- to

support the President's strategy to create 1,200 new community health

centers by 2006.  The increase would support 170 new and expanded health

centers and provide services to a million additional patients.  The

President's long-term plan is to double the capacity of our community health

center system to expand access to care for millions of Americans.

 

To ensure that the community health centers have enough health care workers,

the budget also increases funding for the National Health Service Corps by

$44 million.  Many of the professionals recruited into the service corps

work in community health centers and other underserved areas.