The director of the agency that runs Medicaid in South Carolina says he needs to make $200 million in cuts to keep its deficit from getting bigger. However, he needs legislators’ permission to do it.
Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck said one problem is that he’s not allowed to lower the amount the state pays hospitals and doctors who treat Medicaid patients.
The state Senate listened and Thursday, led by Cherokee’s Harvey Peeler, voted to strike a proviso that prevented the agency from lowering the rate. But there were questions, even within Republican ranks. Horry Senator Luke Rankin says he wants to make sure that they are not bailing out the agency “on the backs of the hospitals, chiropractors and doctors” for financial problems that should have been revealed to them before now.
Hospitals say they worry the cuts may force them to lay off employees or stop serving Medicaid patients.
Keck says the agency plans to cut $125 million from hospital payments.
Hospitals have instead offered to pay more taxes in order to keep their Medicaid funding. However, Keck says that’s not an option, because patients would bear the burden.
Keck said he also hopes to end some services and to switch over to generic drugs.
He also wants to lower the amount the state pays companies to run Medicaid plans. He says the current rate structure was set before the state switched over to managed plans this year.
The House will now discuss ending the proviso, which has been a priority of Governor Nikki Haley.