As the state agency that oversees Medicaid struggles with a $100 million deficit, several South Carolina state senators say they are disturbed about what they are hearing from the person who used to lead the department.
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) accused the Department of Health and Human Services of underestimating how many more people would go onto Medicaid rolls in 2010. While DHHS predicted 4 percent growth, Sheheen said the number was closer to 9 percent.
Sheheen said former DHHS director Emma Forkner told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday that she was instructed to give misleading numbers to legislators.
They were preparing the budget… for this current year. Their estimates internally were higher than what the Governor’s Office instructed them to give to the General Assembly.
Sheheen said Forkner testified that former Governor Mark Sanford’s chief of staff Scott English told her to give lower, inaccurate predictions to legislators.
Mr. English apparently instructed her to give this figure to the General Assembly that was then used in the budget calculations by the General Assembly… in estimating the dollars that they needed.
Other legislators on the subcommittee confirmed Forkner’s comments, but would not go into further detail. Forkner led the agency from 2007 until January, when she was replaced by the new governor.
Sheheen did not theorize why the former DHHS director was pressured to give the lower rate, although he added Forkner said she never got to meet with Sanford personally to inform him of the problem. He said he wants the Senate to further investigate if the discrepancy was accidental or intentional.
I find it hard to believe that someone would intentionally mislead us, but I’m telling you that I have real concerns that the General Assembly was not provided accurate opinions.
Sheheen unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010, falling in the general election to Nikki Haley.