Haley: Lifting up rural S.C. hospitals a priority
COLUMBIA — Two days after being accused by Democrats of “declaring war” on rural South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley rolled out more details on an initiative to provide additional funding to rural hospitals.
The following rural hospitals in October will begin to receive full reimbursement for uncompensated care:Abbeville County HospitalAllendale County HospitalBarnwell County HospitalChester County HospitalChesterfield General HospitalClarendon Memorial HospitalCoastal CarolinaColleton Medical CenterEdgefield County HospitalFairfield Memorial HospitalHampton Regional Medical CenterLake City Community HospitalLaurens County HospitalMarion County MedicalMarlboro Park HospitalMcLeod Regional Medical Center (Dillon)Newberry County HospitalWilliamsburg Regional HospitalS.C. Department of Health and Human Services
“I have always said I’m a rural town girl,” said Haley, who grew up in Bamberg. “And what you are seeing is me become a rural town governor.”
In her State of the State address last month, Haley first announced that the state would fully reimburse rural hospitals for care provided to people who cannot pay for it.
And on Thursday, the first-term Republican met with leaders from some of the 18 rural hospitals that will begin receiving the full compensation in October.
Currently, all South Carolina hospitals, rural and urban, are compensated for 57 percent of the costs of uncompensated care through Medicaid, the shared state-federal program for the needy.
Rural hospitals, which have a larger percentage of patients who are poor, have struggled to turn a profit in recent years, with some being stretched close to the breaking point. Haley’s hometown Bamberg County Hospital closed last spring.
The hospitals also are losing patients to urban facilities.
Troy Gamble, chief medical officer for Williamsburg Regional Hospital, said Thursday that the facility came within two weeks of closing a few months ago.
The Haley administration’s new program will help keep the hospital open, he said.
Tony Keck, Haley’s Medicaid director, said the shift in compensation is estimated to cost $20 million and will be paid for by steering money away from urban hospitals within the Disproportionate Share Hospital Program.
The administration is expecting urban hospitals to have less need for the reimbursement with more residents receiving coverage through Medicaid in the coming years under the Affordable Care Act. Haley opposes a separate expansion of Medicaid, which was left optional for states by a Supreme Court ruling.
Columbia Rep. James Smith, responding for Democrats Thursday, said Haley’s rural hospital initiative is putting a Band-Aid on rural hospitals’ bullet wound. Smith said Haley should expand Medicaid like a group of other Republican governors who have come out in support of expansions in their states. “It’s not enough to just toss some money to the rural hospitals,” he said.