Date: September 30, 2002
For Release: Immediately
Contact: HHS Press Office
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
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."
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
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
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.