Good morning. This week in Washington we made dramatic progress on health care, and today I want to extend that progress one step further.
On Wednesday I shook hands with Representative Charlie Norwood of Georgia, agreeing to strong patient protection legislation. Representative Norwood is the chief congressional champion of that issue. And together, we broke 6 years of legislative gridlock.
The next day the House of Representatives, based on our agreement, passed a good bill to give patients the care they deserve without encouraging frivolous lawsuits. The legislation protects every patient in all 50 States when a health plan wrongly denies or delays needed care. Patients are guaranteed a quick independent review of their case and new Federal remedies to hold their health plans accountable. They get a strong new set of rights in our health care system without driving up the cost of health insurance and discouraging employers from offering coverage.
This legislation is welcome news for patients. And I want to continue this momentum. Today I'm announcing a new initiative to expand health insurance for the uninsured by making the Medicaid program more accessible. Medicaid is designed to provide low-income Americans with medical insurance. It has a noble purpose and some serious challenges.
Medicaid spending is rising dramatically, but the number of low income Americans without insurance remains high. Clearly, this important program needs reform. Yet, States have great difficulty reforming their Medicaid programs because of complex and cumbersome Federal requirements. It is hard for States—much too hard—to navigate the confusing and inconsistent Federal approval process.
Today we are changing that. My administration will adopt new rules that empower States to propose reforms tailored to the needs of their citizens. We will act on proposals quickly without making States wait for months or years for an answer.
In return for this flexibility, we will ask the States to help ensure that their programs broaden coverage for low-income Americans. When States are free to try new approaches, the results are encouraging. Just a few months ago, New York State, led by George Pataki, asked for and got permission to try a new idea to cover more people with the same dollars. As a result, as many as 619,000 more New Yorkers will soon have health insurance.
In our new system, we will inform States in advance of the criteria for responsible Medicaid reform. If they meet those conditions, the Federal Government stands ready to help expand health insurance coverage to those who need it most—no uncertainty and no runaround.
The goals of Medicaid are too important to get bogged down in a bureaucracy. My administration cares about results, about getting Americans broader and better medical coverage. And on issues from Medicaid to patient protection, we are seeing results for the American people.
Thank you for listening.