NAACP, Appleseed Legal Justice Center rally for Medicaid expansion in South Carolina

Liberals and conservatives have been debating Medicaid expansion in South Carolina since 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided states could choose if they wanted to expand the low-income health insurance program with federal funds available through the Affordable Care Act.

Two hours after the Confederate flag was removed from the Statehouse grounds, the NAACP and the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center renewed calls to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in the Palmetto State.

Conservative South Carolina leaders have decided against expanding eligibility for the low-income health insurance program with federal funds available through Obamacare. Twenty other states have not expanded Medicaid either.

In South Carolina, an estimated 250,000 adults would qualify for the program if state leaders changed their position on the issue.

“The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of racism and inequality, but the poverty we see all over our state is the legacy of the racism and inequality itself, which we have neglected for too long,” Sue Berkowitz, director of the Appleseed Legal Justice Center, said in a press release.

The group organized a noon rally in Columbia on Friday with the NAACP to raise awareness about Medicaid expansion.

While some Republican governors have softened their stance on the issue, Gov. Nikki Haley remains adamantly anti-Obamacare.

Last week, her spokeswoman told The Post and Courier that the 2010 federal law “has been bad for our families, bad for our economy and bad for our businesses, and we will continue to work around it as best we can.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., urged state lawmakers last week to expand Medicaid in South Carolina in Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s memory.

“It makes absolutely no sense that we have not done it,” Clyburn said.

Pinckney, a Democratic state senator from the Lowcountry, was one of nine people slain in the Emanuel AME Church shooting last month. He was passionate about expanding Medicaid, Clyburn said.

“No human being ought to be expected to be productive on the job if they are suffering some malady but cannot afford the health care that will help to make them a healthy, productive employee,” Clyburn said. “That is what we’re doing in South Carolina. We’re sentencing people to bad health and expect for them to be productive citizens. That is just stupidity at its worst.”

More than 1 million South Carolinians already carry Medicaid cards. More than half of them are children.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.