For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 3, 2001
HHS To Give States New Options for Expanding Health Coverage
New Initiative Promotes State Innovations To Expand Access For The Uninsured
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced a new initiative that will make it faster and easier for states to expand access to health care coverage for low-income individuals through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) demonstrations.
"Our goal is to give governors the flexibility they need to expand insurance coverage to more Americans through innovative approaches, including the kind of health insurance options available in the private sector," Thompson said. "Through this initiative, we are creating a new, simpler process for states to propose and implement creative ideas to help uninsured residents."
The Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability Initiative will give governors more tools and flexibility to coordinate their Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program to expand access to health care coverage:
- States will have more flexibility to design benefit packages that will promote expanded access to health care coverage and meet the needs of residents.
- Special emphasis will be placed on coordinating Medicaid and SCHIP with private-sector insurance programs to achieve seamless coverage for low-income individuals.
- In exchange for up-front flexibility, states will be required to set goals for reducing the number of residents without health care coverage and then document their progress toward reaching that goal.
- A new electronic application will make it quicker and easier for states to propose and implement new approaches to promote access to health care coverage.
As former governors, President Bush and Secretary Thompson have made it an administration priority to make it simpler and easier for governors to submit Medicaid and SCHIP waiver requests and to have those requests considered promptly. This initiative represents the latest step to promote state innovations to strengthen and improve these programs.
The new approach will encourage states to design benefit packages that will best meet the needs of their residents. For example, a state could make different benefits available to various populations, enabling the states to expand health care coverage to more individuals and families who may not be eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP under current law.
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This initiative will make it easier for states to operate demonstration projects that are designed to
extend health care coverage to currently uninsured residents. As in the past, these projects must be budget neutral, meaning that states would have access to the same amount of federal funding under the demonstration than they would have received under current law.
States wishing to take advantage of the initiative and seek expedited review of their waiver requests will be able to use a new online application that will be available at the Web site of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at www.hcfa.gov/medicaid. CMS, formerly the Health Care Financing Administration, is the HHS agency that oversees the joint federal-state Medicaid and SCHIP programs.
"We intend to use today's technology to speed up and simplify the process and cut down on the bureaucratic red tape and paperwork that stifles new approaches to expanding health coverage," Thompson said. "By increasing flexibility, promoting innovation, and demanding accountability, we are giving states more options to increase the number of individuals with access to affordable health insurance."
### Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at www.hhs.gov/news.