COLUMBIA -- A cigarette tax hike of at least 50 cents per pack was suggested Tuesday by a coalition of medical, business and insurance groups.
It's the minimum to provide a good start on extending health care coverage to a fifth of 700,000 South Carolinians without it, leaders of the group told a Senate Finance subcommittee.
The plan would:
• Expand aid to more low-income households to make insurance available and affordable.
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• Give persons and businesses with up to 25 employees tax credits as high as $2,500 to help pay for insurance.
It is supported by the S.C. Hospital Association, S.C. Medical Association, S.C. Chamber of Commerce and major health insurers.
The changes would benefit families with coverage by reducing medical costs that raise their bills, Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Otis Rawl told the panel.
The plan appeals to some panel members looking at ways to use the tax increase revenue.
"I'm really intrigued by the idea," said Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington.
The current tax is 7 cents a pack, the lowest in the nation.