March 15,2001

Grassley Identifies Ways to Help the Uninsured

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, today saidhe will focus his efforts on helping Americans without health insurance on two areas: promotingflexibility for state governments and bolstering the individual- and employer-based insurance market.

“Millions of Americans lack health insurance, and there are many reasons why,” Grassleysaid. “While the reasons are diverse, the solutions are guided by two broad principles. One is thatstate governments need flexibility to serve the uninsured. Another is that we also need to encourageaffordable, accessible coverage in the private insurance market.”

Grassley’s comments came after the second of two hearings exploring the profile of theuninsured population and possible solutions. He said it’s critically important to keep in mind thatbecause the uninsured population is so diverse, there is no one--fits-all solution.

Instead, Congress must think about changes that are unique to each of the differentpopulations that make up the uninsured, Grassley said.

President Bush has already put forth a series of incremental options that would help millionsof uninsured individuals and families gain health coverage, Grassley said. More than 70 percent ofuninsured adults are employed but still go without health coverage. The President’s proposal to offera refundable tax credit would help this working population tremendously.

Grassley said the President’s proposal also encourages states to use flexibility to improveoutreach and enrollment efforts to cover millions of adults and children who may already qualify forexisting federal health programs but are not enrolled. Options such as streamlining the applicationprocess and reducing paperwork burdens on families are common-sense ways to make theseprograms more accessible, Grassley said.

Grassley said solutions to the uninsured problem must not overburden existing federalprograms that already might be stretched to the limit and must not discourage employers fromoffering health insurance to employees.

“More and more Americans rely on health coverage in the employer-based insurance market,whether as an employee, a retiree or through a spouse. Millions more purchase individual privateinsurance,” Grassley said. “We have to make sure we continue to promote consumer choice andencourage affordable private sector options. The more options Americans have, the more likely theyare to find an insurance plan that meets their needs. We have a strong bipartisan will to tackle theuninsured problem this year, and I’m looking forward to working with our President and mycolleagues to accomplish this goal.”