Congratulations to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and state Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck. Their proposal to add an additional $29 million in the Medicaid budget for children’s healthcare appears to be a done deal both in the House and Senate. This is a dramatic turnaround from the Mark Sanford administration.
Back in 2007 the South Carolina Small Business Chamber, S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center, S.C. Fair Share and AARP-SC were fighting to increase the cigarette tax in an effort to generate funding for a program to help make health insurance more affordable for small businesses and to expand the number of children eligible for Medicaid from those in families of up to 150% of poverty to up to 200% of poverty. The latter proposal survived and the General Assembly put about $29 million in the budget to provide healthcare services for an additional 70,000 to 100,000 children.
Governor Sanford then vetoed that part of the budget but we were successful in having that veto overridden. The story should have ended there…but it didn’t.
The Sanford administration and his HHS director actively worked against adding these children to the Medicaid program by refusing obvious measure to let parents know about the program and throwing every roadblock they could in front of parents and organizations who tried to have the newly eligible children enrolled in the program. Who knows where the millions set aside for the program went but it certainly wasn’t used as intended by the Legislature.
For 5 years these children went without the Medicaid for which by state law they were legally eligible. For 5 years the uncompensated healthcare these children did receive helped push insurance premiums up on individuals and small businesses. For 5 years the working parents of these children were less productive on the job because of sick children whose illnesses could have been preventive with proper healthcare. All of this because Governor Sanford and his Director of HHS knew better that the General Assembly and caring more about shrinking government instead of the health of our needy children and health insurance costs for the rest of us.
But while Governor Haley, Tony Keck and the Legislature appear to be all on board with funding and implementing this Medicaid expansion, they should drop their rhetoric that they are doing it because of the new federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act. There was no “ObamaCare” back in 2007. This Medicaid expansion program for children was passed by a Republican House and Senate. It is the law. State officials need to stop blaming President Obama for a worthwhile healthcare program that we worked for and our South Carolina Legislature passed 5 years ago.