South Carolinas state motto is I breathe, I hope.
It ought to be Too Poor to Paint, Too Proud to Whitewash.
Stubborn pride wouldnt be considered a motivating factor in most state governments, but it explains why the South Carolina House of Representatives last week rejected an amendment to the budget bill that would have provided health insurance to people making less than $15,000 a year or $32,000 for a family of four.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pick up 100 percent of the tab for expanded Medicaid coverage for the first three years, after which the states share would increase, eventually reaching 10 percent.
Republicans claim that the state cant afford the additional $613 million to $1.5 billion by 2020. Estimates vary because its hard to predict how many additional people will sign up for Medicaid.
That sounds like a lot of money until you consider:
The state could lose between $11 billion and $13 billion in federal Medicaid assistance by 2020.
A recent AARP poll indicates that 54 percent of South Carolinians 45 or older support participation in the expanded Medicaid program.
South Carolina hospitals have promised to tax themselves in order cover the states share of the expanded Medicaid program.
A University of South Carolina survey projects that the expansion would pump $11.2 billion a year into the state economy and create 44,000 jobs.
Money our legislators rejected will be spread among other states, meaning South Carolinians will be paying to insure their poor in such red states as Florida and Arizona, where GOP Govs. Rick Scott and Jan Brewer appreciate the federal assistance.
Because the Affordable Care Act also eliminates payments for uncompensated care, while under another federal law hospitals are prohibited from turning away indigent patients, South Carolina hospitals will be forced to pass added expenses to their paying patients.
Sound hard to believe?
Some critics have blamed Gov. Nikki Haley, suggesting that her opposition to every aspect of Obamacare stems from her courtship of the Tea Party wing of the national Republican Party. She loves to tout her rise from humble beginnings in Bamberg, but shes turning her back on some 250,000 to 400,000 of her fellow South Carolinians.
That theory is insufficient to explain why House Republicans unanimously voted against Medicaid expansion last week. Because of her penchant for self-promotion at their expense, Haley has as many if not more enemies in the General Assembly than she has friends. In previous sessions, her fellow Republicans havent been afraid to overturn her vetoes. Clearly, however, they share her view on this issue.
The Republicans have boxed themselves in by refusing to raise taxes, even though state and local taxes in South Carolina rank well below most other states. As a result:
Our roads and bridges are falling apart.
Our prisons are understaffed.
Our schools and local governments havent received full funding for years.
Our colleges and universities have had to make up for cuts in state funding by jacking up tuition to the highest levels in the entire Southeast.
But even their deep aversion to taxes doesnt explain why lawmakers would reject an opportunity to provide health coverage to the states neediest citizens.
This is the not the first time in recent years when South Carolinas leaders have cut off the states nose to spite its face.
In 2009, Gov. Mark Sanford tried to refuse $700 million in federal stimulus funds after he was told he couldnt divert most of it to pay down state debt. He was overruled by the General Assembly.
In the same spirit two years later, Superintendent of Education Mick Zais rejected $144 million in federal stimulus assistance. Zais earlier declined the opportunity to apply for a share of $200 million in Race to the Top funds from the U.S. Department of Education.
Only six states rank lower than the Palmetto State in the percentage of people with a high school diploma.
Only five state ranks lower in overall health.
Only six states have a higher percentage of people without health insurance.
We may be poor, but were proud.
Email former Herald Editor Terry Plumb at email@example.com.