The S.C. House of Representatives on Tuesday chose to reject billions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid in South Carolina.
Democratic lawmakers, some even invoking the Bible, spent hours making the case for expanding the health insurance program for low-income residents. A budget proposal that would have accomplished that was defeated 73-45. Voting fell along party lines — House Democrats voted for expansion; Republicans voted against it.
“I just don’t quite get it that we would turn away $11,240,000,” said Rep. Leon Howard, D-Columbia. The plan would have accepted federal money to expand Medicaid. The federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of expansion costs for three years. After that states would have to contribute. State officials estimate more than 340,000 additional South Carolinians would become eligible for the insurance program through the expansion.
“You’re getting ready to send ump-teen million dollars to Washington and you’re not going to get any of it back,” said Rep. Harry Ott, D-St. Matthews.
Gov. Nikki Haley released a statement after the vote, saying that the House did what was right for the health of our S.C. residents. “ObamaCare would be a disaster for South Carolina, and we should all be thankful to the House for standing tall and choosing the best road for our people, rather than the road paved by Washington’s empty promises.”
The fight isn’t over, though. The Senate could propose its own budget amendment to expand Medicaid, but if that amendment passes in the Senate, the budget would move to a conference committee.
A compromise budget would need to be approved by both chambers before it’s sent to the governor’s desk.
Haley has promised to veto any version of the budget that includes Medicaid expansion.
The General Assembly can override the governor’s veto with a two-third’s majority.