COLUMBIA — The issue of South Carolina’s participation in the expansion of Medicaid was the subject of a discussion between State Sens. Shane Martin and C. Bradley Hutto on an SCETV teleconference hosted by Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell Thursday morning.
Martin, a Republican from Spartanburg, and Hutto, a Democrat from Orangeburg, discussed whether or not South Carolina should participate in the expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act on “This Week in the State House with Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell.” Martin, whose district includes part of Union County, opposes participation while Hutto favors it.
Hutto said he favors the South Carolina’s participation in the expansion because it would provide federal funding that would allow the state to provide health insurance for the uninsured segment of its population. He pointed out that participating in the expansion would provide the state with $1.6 billion a year in federal funding and that for the first three years Washington would pay 100 percent of the cost of providing health insurance to the uninsured in South Carolina. After the first three years the state would have to provide 10 percent of the cost with the federal government the other 90 percent.
While the state would have to come up with that 10 percent, Hutto said its participation could actually save it money. He pointed out that people who are uninsured now have to get their medical treatment in the emergency room which he said was more costly than a private physician. If they had insurance as they would if the state participates in the Medicaid expansion, Hutto said they could instead get their own doctor and not have to go the emergency room, thus reducing the health care costs incurred by the state.
Martin disagreed, pointing out that as chairman of the subcommittee looking into the issue, he has come to the conclusion that state participation in the expansion of Medicaid is not a valid option. He pointed out that the growth of Medicaid is unsustainable, and why something that is already unsustainable should be expanded further. Martin pointed out that the federal government is $16 trillion in debt and asked where it is going to get the money to keep the promises it has made in its expansion of Medicaid. He described the expansion of Medicaid as promises made on borrowed money.
Martin also said that once the state has to begin paying its 10 percent share of the cost of Medicaid expansion it will have to get the money from somewhere. He pointed out that 54 percent of the state budget is for education while 30 percent is for Medicaid with the remaining 16 percent covering things like infrastructure and law enforcement. If the state participates in the Medicaid expansion, Martin said it would have to find the money somewhere in its budget and that would mean taking it from other areas. He said this would mean cuts in other areas of the budget and at least some of that would be in funding for education.
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