Medicaid expansion effort focuses appeal on low-income SC voters

08/28/2014 11:31 PM

08/29/2014 6:25 AM

The South Carolina Progressive Network plans to focus its get-out-the-vote efforts this year on the 176,530 people who didn’t get health care coverage because the state’s political leaders turned down federal Medicaid expansion.

Using voter registration information and census data, the network came up with estimates on the number of registered voters in each county denied government-provided health care because the state turned down Medicaid expansion. The 176,530 statewide includes 12,018 in Richland County, 2,888 in Lexington County and 1,914 in Kershaw County.

Government and health care groups have estimated an additional 250,000 people in the state would have been eligible for Medicaid if the state agreed to accept federal funds to cover expansion. The expansion would have covered all adults between 18-64 earning less than about $14,500 annually. Some of those people aren’t registered to vote, and some managed to get other insurance coverage.

Progressive Network director Brett Bursey told a gathering of about 50 people in front of the Statehouse this week that the key to changing things in South Carolina is to get all of those voters denied Medicaid to the polls in November. In his opinion, those people have had their Medicaid card “embezzled” by Gov. Nikki Haley and the Republican leaders in South Carolina.

Haley has pledged never to accept expansion of Medicaid, which she sees as a bloated program with too much wasteful spending. Instead, Haley has pushed for targeted, less costly efforts such as increasing funding for low-cost health clinics.

Haley’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, is a proponent of accepting expanded Medicaid.

“Nikki won four years ago by 59,000 votes,” Bursey said. “We have 176,530 registered voters that she hurt very badly. Let’s tell them.”

The Progressive Network brought in U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to rally its forces for the fall campaign, dubbed the Healthy Democracy Road Show. Sanders spoke briefly at the Statehouse rally and planned more extensive remarks at an evening program at the Lourie Center in Columbia.

“In a number of states, including South Carolina, we’re running up against a right-wing political ideology,” Sanders said. “And what that ideology is saying is despite the fact that the federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost of this expansion, ideologically some people believe that the federal government and perhaps state government should not be involved in the provision of health care.

“What they are essentially saying is they want a society where the wealthy and the powerful can get the best health care in the world, but if you’re a low-income working person, you get nothing.”

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