By Liv Osby • Health Writer • April 1, 2010
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint have joined South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell in calling for repeal of the new federal health reform law, saying its Medicaid expansion will cost the state too much.
The law permits anyone at 133 percent of the federal poverty level to be eligible for Medicaid. That could mean nearly half a million more enrollees at a cost of more than $900 million to the state over a decade.
“This bill increases Medicaid enrollment by 61 percent in South Carolina,” said Graham, R-S.C. “That’s a tremendous expansion.”
Graham said he and DeMint want legislators here and in other states to publicize the bill’s impact while pushing for its repeal.
“It’s time for state legislatures to let everyone know the real cost,” said DeMint, R-S.C. “And as Congress hears from states, it does help build momentum for this November and 2012.”
However, Congressman Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, said expanding Medicaid will save millions annually by moving patients from expensive emergency rooms to primary care.
“All of us who have insurance are paying the health care bill for our fellow citizens who don’t,” he said. “This uncompensated care was one of the reasons our premiums doubled over the past 10 years and are currently spiraling out of control.”
Sue Berkowitz, director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, said Medicaid will grow because there are so many poor people in the state. She said the increase won’t happen until 2014, and the state won’t have to start paying until 2017, when its share would be 5 percent, increasing to 10 percent after 2020.
That gives lawmakers time to avoid future shortfalls by revising the tax system, perhaps repealing sales tax exemptions that cost hundreds of millions each year, she said, adding the $300 tax is the same on a $40,000 Mercedes as a $6,000 used car.
“Why are we exempting those dollars to help someone get a Mercedes versus helping someone at 133 percent of poverty get health care?” she asked.
Graham and Harrell said health care expansion should be done through the private sector.
“We had a plan in House last year that would expand coverage through employers,” Harrell said. “I wish we’d head in that direction.”
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