After Gov. Henry McMaster slashed $16 million in Medicaid family planning funds on Friday in his bid to defund Planned Parenthood, Republican lawmakers said Monday they will wait until September before returning to Columbia to take this, and other, issues up.
Until then, McMaster's veto stands.
Even so, federal law requires every state Medicaid program to cover family planning services, such as cancer screenings and pelvic exams, for beneficiaries who qualify for full coverage. The federal law also allows patients to choose their own providers. The governor's veto does not change these rules.
But it isn't clear how the agency will pay for family planning services if the veto holds. It could pull money from its reserves or move funds across budget lines, but a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the Medicaid program in this state, did not clarify this issue on Monday.
She also failed to answer several other questions about the veto's impact.
If the department chooses to withhold payment for family planning services, it will likely face an imminent lawsuit, experts agree.
McMaster's intention in striking $16 million from the Medicaid budget was to stop any of that money from reaching Planned Parenthood.
Historically, Planned Parenthood clinics in South Carolina have received less than 1 percent of the Medicaid agency's family planning funds each year. That money is used to provide pelvic exams and birth control, among other services. It may not, by law, fund abortions.
But McMaster, and other Republicans, have argued that state and federal money flowing to Planned Parenthood indirectly helps the organization provide abortions.
"I have stated many times that I am opposed to what Planned Parenthood is doing," McMaster said on Friday. "And the veto that I have is the most direct way to get to the money that is going to them for family-planning services, which in Planned Parenthood land means abortions."
Rep. Neal Collins, R-Pickens, who sits on the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee, said he doesn't buy the argument that Planned Parenthood uses Medicaid reimbursement to pay for abortions.
"I want more proof than just conjecture," Collins said.
Most of the Medicaid agency's family planning funds are used to pay other providers, he said. "All of them are doing important work."
Collins, for one, said he could not support McMaster's veto, but would not speculate if the Legislature would override it.
Rep. Garry Smith, R-Simpsonville, conceded the vote will be close.
Smith did not vote in favor of the overall budget this year, in part, because he shares McMaster's concerns about state money funding Planned Parenthood.
"For public funding to be used in any way to support (abortion) in any way, I think that is wrong," Smith said.
S.C. House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, said the House will also address in September any lingering issues of tax conformity and will approve a new member for the Public Service Commission, which regulates the state's utilities.
S.C. Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said he would likely bring back the Senate at the same time and has been coordinating with House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington.
If the S.C. House votes to override McMaster's veto, the vote will proceed to the Senate. If the Senate also overrides the veto, the measure is killed.
Only one legislative body must vote to sustain the veto for it to remain in place.