Doctors lobby state lawmakers to expand Medicaid

Doctors from across the state will descend on Columbia Tuesday to lobby lawmakers about expanding Medicaid under the Patient Care and Affordability Act.

White Coat Day, sponsored by the South Carolina Hospital Association, has been organized to convince the General Assembly that extending Medicaid eligibilty to more residents is in the state’s best interest.

Passed by Congress in 2010, the Patient Care and Affordability Act extends health insurance eligibilty to many uninsured Americans, but a 2012 Supreme Court ruling decided states could choose whether or not to accept federal money to aid Medicaid expansion.

Under the law, the federal government will cut payments historically given to hospitals for treating uninsured patients. In exchange, it will fully fund Medicaid expansion for three years starting in 2014. After that, state governments will be required to shoulder some of the costs. The state contribution will be rolled out on a sliding scale to a maximum 10 percent match in 2020. The federal government will continue contributing 90 percent of the cost.

Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina Medicaid Director Tony Keck and many Republican lawmakers have publically said South Carolina can’t afford it.

“We’re not going to enter into a program that we know going forward is financially impossible to sustain,” said state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston. “The numbers don’t add up. You can’t fund it from the state level because it will break the state.”

The South Carolina Hospital Association is using White Coat Day as an opportunity to change minds.

“Physicians are touching patients every day. They see the needs. They see the patients without access to care. They see people without medical homes and without sources of insurance,” said Rozalynn Goodwin, director of policy research at the Hospital Association. “If we don’t expand Medicaid, South Carolina and the hospitals won’t realize the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act.”

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.

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