One Republican lawmaker plans to scratch his name from a bipartisan bill that would accept federal money to set up health savings accounts for low-income residents in South Carolina.
Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, signed on to co-sponsor a House bill last week that would set up these accounts for about 340,000 South Carolinians using federal money intended to expand the Medicaid program. Herbkersman was under the false impression that South Carolina Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck supported the legislation.
“The bottom line is if Tony Keck does not support that bill, it’s probably for a good reason,” Herbkersman said.
After the bill was introduced Thursday, Keck said, “It’s basically just a way to get Obamacare without calling it Obamacare.”
Seventy-five Republican and Democratic legislators co-sponsored the “Truth in Health Financing and Responsible Consumer Health Care Act.” Herbkersman said he may need to wait to officially withdraw his support until the General Assembly reconvenes on May 14.
Keck, who runs the state’s Medicaid agency, said the legislation is Medicaid expansion under a different guise.
“If it covers the same number of people and it has to operate under Medicaid laws and it doesn’t allow any of the features that actually help make providers and beneficiaries more accountable and it actually might cost more, it’s a little confusing to me why people think it’s such a great idea,” he said.
Under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, states can accept federal money to expand the number of residents eligible for Medicaid. Keck and Gov. Nikki Haley are opposed to expansion. Keck has often repeated his position that the system is too expensive and isn’t making any one healthier.
Rep. Kris Crawford, R-Florence, the bill’s main sponsor, said he never told anyone Keck supported the effort. He said he never consulted Keck when he was drafted the legislation.
“The governor’s position has been no expansion and we’re not going to do anything with that population. And (Keck) works for the governor. Where does that leave me an entry to have that conversation?,” he said. “I think that South Carolina needs a more thoughtful position than ‘No, we can’t do that.’”
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.