Palmetto Sunrise: Medicaid expansion push fails

Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

COLUMBIA — An attempt to expand Medicaid failed Thursday.

During the Senate Finance Committee meeting, a group of bipartisan, budget-writing Senators called on the state to take on federal health care money that Gov. Nikki Haley and other Republican have previously rejected.

Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, argued along with several others, that it would be cheaper for the state to just expand Medicaid, than to have taxpayers cover the cost of uninsured people who attend emergency rooms. He said the state should start stashing away money to prepare when the federal government lowers its contribution in several years.

Lourie, along with Sens. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, also argued that expanding Medicaid would bring about 400,000 jobs to South Carolina. They added that expansion would also save many of South Carolina’s rural hospitals.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman and President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said, however, that the Medicaid expansion would not “cure the rural hospital issue.”

“I just don’t think this is the way to try to address it,” Leatherman added.

When it became evident that the effort didn’t have the needed support, Lourie withdrew the amendment to the budget, adding he would return in a few weeks with the same effort as a bill.

That debate consumed the majority of the finance committee’s conversation on Thursday. The group is expected to continue writing the state’s budget next Tuesday.


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