Hospital group calls for Medicaid expansion during Black Caucus meeting in Rock Hill

adouglas@heraldonline.comFebruary 26, 2013 

— A lobbyist with the South Carolina Hospital Association made her case Tuesday in Rock Hill for why the state should accept billions of dollars in federal money, which would pay for Medicaid expansion.

The South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus hosted SCHA’s Rozalynn Goodwin during its town hall meeting at Winthrop University on Tuesday night.

About 18,000 people in York, Chester and Lancaster counties, Goodwin said, could sign up for Medicaid for the first time if South Carolina chooses to follow 25 other states in accepting the federal expansion money.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid has been expanded to include some people who are not eligible for the benefits. The expansion includes mostly low-income adults who are single and do not have children.

States have the choice to accept the federal money that covers 100 percent of the cost of the expansion the first three years. Gov. Nikki Haley has said firmly that she would not support expanding Medicaid benefits in the state.

The state General Assembly could pass legislation to expand Medicaid, but Haley could veto the bill. Legislators could overturn the governor’s veto by a two-thirds vote.

About 250,000 new people in South Carolina stand to benefit from the $11 billion that the federal government would provide to cover 100 percent of the cost of the expansion between 2014 and 2016, Goodwin said. Between 2017 and 2020, the federal government would pay for 93-95 percent of the cost of expansion.

After 2020, she said, the Affordable Care Act would cover 90 percent of states’ Medicaid expansion costs.

“It is the major issue that our legislature’s facing,” Goodwin said. “And it impacts everyone in this state.”

The SCHA represents 100 hospitals. Hospital and health care systems across the state are lobbying for the Medicaid expansion.

The expansion, Goodwin said, will cut costs for health care providers and their patients. Treating people who are uninsured raises premiums for everyone, she said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, she said, hospitals will take big cuts in the federal money they receive for treating patients without any health insurance.

To make up for the hit hospitals will take on charity case compensation, Goodwin said, the money for Medicaid expansion will provide a way for previously uninsured people to obtain health care coverage.

Goodwin called on legislators Tuesday to stop the “political bickering” about the Affordable Care Act and accept the Medicaid expansion money.

Compared to all other states, Goodwin said, South Carolina would benefit the fourth most in the nation from the federal Medicaid expansion money.

S.C. Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, chairman of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, said Tuesday’s forum was about bringing the facts about the Medicaid expansion to the state’s voters.

Mitchell alluded to possible economic consequences if the state declines the federal money, saying, “What’s going to happen? Are we going to be able to attract the next Boeing or BMW to our state?”

Audience members, including students from Winthrop and Clinton Junior College, posed questions to the legislators on issues ranging from state financial support for universities to gun control.

Former York County Councilman Roy Blake, who ran unsuccessfully as a petition candidate last year, asked several questions about the filing problems that led to the removal of many candidates from primary ballots.

“It won’t happen again ... and I can say that the Legislative Black Caucus stands firm on that,” state Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, said in response.

The S.C. Senate is considering legislation that would “take the politics” out of candidates filing to run in primaries, said state Sen. Kevin Johnson who represents four counties in the Lowcountry.

The proposed legislation, Johnson said, would put each county’s election commission in charge of candidate filings, not political parties.

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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