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Haley's Medicaid Rejection 'Baffles' Democrats, Health Experts

But they say they are 'not surprised' by the S.C. Republican governor.

In response to the Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, at least 15 governors have voiced their opposition. Gov. Nikki Haley logged on Facebook to make known her stance against the expansion.

She wrote: “South Carolina will NOT expand Medicaid, or participate in any health exchanges. We will not support Pres. Obama's tax increase or job killing agenda. I WILL do everything I can to get Mitt Romney elected and work to strengthen our Senate so that we can repeal this unAmerican policy aimed at moving our country in the wrong direction.”

South Carolina Democrats and industry professionals are concerned — but not surprised.

“If George Bush hated black people, then Nikki Haley hates poor people,” said outgoing S.C. Rep. Boyd Brown, D-Fairfield. “It makes me sick.”

Brown said that the politicians that often cite Christian morals and principles are the ones cutting funding to the poor people who need it most.

"I can't think of anything further unChristian than cutting funding to the people who need it," he added.

“It’d do her some good to see exactly what Medicaid does. It baffles me that she’s against it, but no, I’m not surprised."

Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, said: “This is a preening politician’s publicity stunt and is typical with Nikki Haley. This is petty and foolish and is about Haley trying to get a job in D.C.”

Harpootlian said he thinks the governor is putting politics before the people of South Carolina.

“She’s using the misery of the people of South Carolina as a springboard to get to Romney,” he said.

Health care economist consultant Lynn Bailey of local firm Lynn Bailey Associates said she, too, anticipated Haley’s reaction.

“Are we surprised that our governor would throw the poorest of the poor under the bus?” she asked. “Not at all.”

Bailey said that if the legislature follows through with opting out of the program, the people who will hurt the most are poor people who do not currently fall into one of the Medicaid categories.

“Is that the kind of state we want? No, but it’s the kind we get.”

The combination federal-state program expansion extends Medicaid enrollment eligibility to those under 65 at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Coverage would include those adults making about $15,000 or less per year, or about $31,000 or less for a family of four, according to federal poverty guidelines.  

Federal law requires state Medicaid programs cover low-income mothers, children and pregnant woman as defined by federal guidelines. States may choose to extend service to the low income elderly or people with disabilities.

The first three years of the expansion, beginning 2014, would be fully funded by federal dollars with at least 90 percent covered federally each year thereafter. This would insure anywhere from 335,000 to more than 500,000 South Carolina residents and provide a 56 percent reduction in the total number of uninsured adults.

Tony Keck, S.C. director of Medicaid, said an expansion of coverage is not what the state needs. Keck is also the director of the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, as chosen by Haley in January 2011.

“What we’re saying is as long as the Medicaid system is as broken as it is, it doesn’t make sense to expand to coverage,” he said. “The governor and I work on those policies together, so you know, that’s how we feel about it.”

Keck said that instead of taking on new beneficiaries, S.C. Medicaid should work to enroll those eligible under current state program requirements.

“We share the goal of getting everyone healthy, but you gotta pay for it. We wanna make sure that we fix the [current] healthcare system before we dive in and try to fix a system that hasn’t produced great results,” he said. “The money has to come from somewhere.”

According to a detailed report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Medicaid expansion would require a 3.6 to 4.7 percent increase, or an extra $470 million to $615 million, in Medicaid spending from 2014 to 2019. In 2010, federal and state spending on Medicaid totaled more than $5.1 billion. South Carolina paid about 20% of that bill, or about $1.1 billion.

Graph and statistical information in this article were provided, with permission, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to health care information and analysis.

JoSCh July 19, 2012 at 04:37 PM
In general they aren't self formed opinions. They repeat propaganda fed to them under the guise of news. Why they don't question the propaganda I do not know. I suspect it's because they're hoping that if the elite do finally wrest control completely from us Americans that the sycophants will be spared. Pascals wager at it's worst...
stanley seigler July 19, 2012 at 06:28 PM
@JoSCh: grammar, punctuation, capitalization, frankly your entire posting style IS awful to read..." shucks...guess i can give up my aspirations to be another e.e. cummings...maybe a joyce:) tho, 'as frankly i found his entire 'finnegans wake' awful to read' (gave up, may try again)...weel at least 'jj and me' have something in common: some people find us awful to read...
reg July 19, 2012 at 07:07 PM
excuse me, Mr. so-called "patriot" - *where are these jobs that republicans created?* Where? Go on....we're waiting.... Shoot, you know why we have so much unemployment in this state? 89.8% of all the unemployment in our state is the result of state and county government layoffs. Nothing else. Layoffs from the republicans in charge of the governor's office, the state house and the state senate for the past 15 years, who continually chopped away at the budget with tax breaks for their donors and their friends.
reg July 19, 2012 at 07:11 PM
apparently, harry, you're one of the many who's been misled about what national debt means. This "debt" (aka treasury bonds bought by China) stems from Republicans removing the protective trade duties on imported goods - our workers go out of work, and can't even afford the cheap, poor products that now litter the shelves in our stores. And where does all this "debt" come from? Reagan, Bush I and Bush II
reg July 19, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Yeah, she's done plenty, "patriot" - she cut over 15,000 jobs in the state. Teachers, police, firefighters....

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