The South Carolina Senate voted to lift the state budget proviso that protects the rates paid by Medicaid to doctors and hospitals. Thursday’s 24-11 Senate vote was taken in response to a request by Governor Nikki Haley and Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck.
The agency runs the state’s Medicaid program, and Keck has sought to lower Medicaid rates as he seeks to make $200 million in cuts. In a Friday press conference Governor Haley thanked the Senate for their vote to help drive costs out of the system.
Looking toward the future, Haley says Thursday’s state senate vote gives DHHS the maneuverability to take the necessary steps to take care of patients while driving costs out of the system. She says removing the proviso will also protect Medicaid prescription drug coverage.
Opponents of the move say lowering the rates would adversely affect a number of hospitals and physicians especially those in rural areas. Some say they would have to lay off employees or stop serving Medicaid patients and that would limit access to health care to rural citizens. Keck says he is aware that hospitals in rural areas operate under different cost structures than do urban and suburban hospitals, and he is willing to look at special rate systems that will allow health care providers to remain in the system .
Keck says he is not taken a “one size fits all” approach to setting rate structures for healthcare providers, and he is very willing to listen to concerns they may have.
The proposal now goes to the House.