ERA 3 State Strategy SC Medicaid Expansion SC is paying a heavy price for rejection of Medicaid expansion
Friday, 25 April 2014 22:17

SC is paying a heavy price for rejection of Medicaid expansion

Written by  Terry Alexander | SCNow
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Sadly, opponents of Medicaid expansion are touting South Carolina’s refusal to use federal funds to provide health coverage to more than 300,000 South Carolinians, including nearly 7,800 in Florence County. They say that they were successful “in beating back the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion . . . which would have cost our state untold millions once the federal government yanked its portion of the funding away.”

As I sat in the House during this session I heard some lawmakers cite possible withdrawal of federal funds in the future as a reason to refuse the federal funds being offered starting January 2014. In 2014 and through 2016, the federal government promises to pay 100 percent of the costs of covering more than 300,000 South Carolinians who can’t afford to buy health care. After 2016, the federal government promises to pay a little less each year but never less than 90 percent of the cost of the expansion.

But I don’t hear the same arguments against using federal dollars that might go away one day for other causes, such as highway construction and education. And the federal government has been funding about 70 percent of South Carolina’s Medicaid costs for many years without reneging on that promise. So it is logical to conclude that this is not a serious reason to oppose taking federal dollars to cover more people now.

Some people just don’t like the federal law called ObamaCare for various reasons, many of those reasons are purely political. But it’s the law of the land, and, like it or not, we do have to abide by it. Unfortunately, those who hate ObamaCare are taking their frustrations out on the vulnerable, uninsured people of South Carolina by refusing to take more needed Medicaid funding.

Ironically, South Carolina is one of the states with the most to gain from expanding our program and the most to lose by rejecting expansion. If we don’t expand, South Carolina will remain in the bottom of state health rankings for generations to come. We know that the number of uninsured residents is directly related to the poor health status of our state. We also know that the more uninsured people who get care, the more everyone else pays for care.

It’s especially disturbing that while our state refuses to take advantage of federal funds set aside to cover our working poor, South Carolinians will continue to pay into the program to help people in other states. Also, many of the states that are working to expand their Medicaid programs as quickly as possible are the states at the top of the health status rankings. They understand the connection between insurance and health status.

So the South Carolina General Assembly made a very costly decision this session when the majority of the members refused to approve a federally funded expansion of Medicaid coverage to more than 300,000 South Carolinians. To make matters worse, they went against the will of the voters, a majority of whom support Medicaid expansion.

The RAND Corporation recently studied 14 states likely to reject the Medicaid expansion, and the list includes South Carolina. According to the study, those 14 states will lose a total of $8.4 billion in federal funding while they spend an extra $1 billion taking care of uninsured patients. They will also have about 3.6 million more uninsured residents than they would have had if they had expanded the Medicaid program.

Researchers from the University of South Carolina Moore School of Business conducted an economic impact study for Medicaid Expansion and found that the more than $11 billion South Carolina would receive the first seven years would create 44,000 new jobs in the state, including more than 1,700 jobs here in Florence County. South Carolina’s rejection of Medicaid Expansion has already sent $700 million of our dollars to other states.

That’s a heavy price to pay for a political point, but the South Carolinians who will pay the heaviest price are our working poor who are being denied health coverage yet could qualify for help in another state. The other non-winners are South Carolinians who will pay higher premiums and higher hospital bills, along with the taxes that could be brought back to our state to help reduce the number of uninsured.

It’s time that our General Assembly listen to the people they represent, especially those who are most vulnerable and make up a majority of South Carolina.

The Affordable Care Act is good for South Carolina. Do the math.

S.C. Rep. Terry Alexander represents District 59, which includes portions of Florence and Darlington counties, in the S.C. House.

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