Mount Pleasant -- Standing outside a medical office Friday morning, Gov. Mark Sanford said South Carolina will be among states declining to administer the temporary high-risk health insurance program created by the recent federal health care legislation.

The program will make subsidized health insurance coverage available to currently uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions as early as July 1 across the nation.

The risk pool will be offered in South Carolina, but the federal government, rather than the state, will run the program.

Friday was the deadline for states to say if they will participate. By 4 p.m., 28 states had said they would participate and 15 had declined.

Sanford said that if South Carolina were to agree to operate the program here, the $74 million in federal funding allocated to South Carolina probably would fall short of what's needed, and that could cause budget problems for the state.

The Republican governor called the program "an unfunded mandate," although states are neither mandated to participate nor required to provide funding.

The new risk pools are supposed to be established starting July 1, lasting through Jan. 1, 2014, as a temporary measure to make affordable insurance available to those unable to obtain it elsewhere.

The pools are a temporary measure until a new federal requirement that insurance companies accept adults with pre-existing conditions takes effect, and when health insurance exchanges will be established.

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South Carolina already operates a high-risk plan, with about 2,000 people enrolled, Sanford said. Premiums in the state program are about double the cost of standard health insurance plans, while the federal program aims to match the premiums of standard plans.

Sanford said the federal program penalizes those who have been paying for more costly high-risk insurance, because people can enroll in the new high-risk plans only if they have been uninsured for six months.

He worried that people in the state program could choose to become uninsured for six months in order to become eligible for the federal plan, which will cost about half as much.

For now, there's no way to sign up for the federal risk pools, because they haven't been established.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or