Tea Party Upends S.C. Insurance Exchange Bill

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State House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper, R-Anderson, and seven other Republican state House members today removed their support from legislation that would create a state health insurance exchange.

The legislation, created by state Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, picked up sponsorship from about a dozen Republican representatives earlier this month in addition to its initial Democratic co-sponsors, but the bill has now lost most of its GOP supporters.

The move Tuesday came as members of activist groups, including the S.C. Campaign for Liberty and Spartanburg Tea Party, protested what they described as a stealth effort to rush the legislation — which critics have said is part of “Obamacare” — through the Ways and Means Committee.

The bill was not on the committee’s agenda Tuesday, but the groups had raised alarms that there was a possibility the bill would be added to the committee agenda at the meeting.

The groups encouraged their supporters to contact co-sponsoring legislators in their districts to voice their displeasure with their legislators’ sponsorship.

Mitchell has said his goal in introducing the bill was to allow South Carolina to opt out of a federal health care reform provision by establishing a state health insurance exchange — a marketplace where multiple insurance providers compete to offer affordable rates to the uninsured. Under the terms of the reform legislation, states are required to create such an exchange, or have one created for them by the federal government. He filed the bill in late February.

Gov. Nikki Haley issued an executive order earlier this month to form a committee to study the possibility of forming a health insurance exchange in South Carolina. The executive order made no mention of Mitchell’s bill.

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