CORRECTION: This report originally said 10 percent Medicaid matching funds would be required after 2017. The federal government will actually phase in the match beginning in 2017, but it will not reach 10 percent until 2020. We apologize for the error.
The South Carolina House on Tuesday rejected attempts by Democrats to temporarily expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands more low-income adults. The House voted along party lines 73-41 Tuesday to not opt-in to the health care reform law, which would have expanded coverage for up to 300,000 more South Carolinians.
The votes came after Democrats spent nearly five hours at the podium pushing for the expansion— calling it a moral obligation. “‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brother, you did it to Me,” said Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia) referencing a biblical quote from the Gospel of Matthew.
But the House GOP caucus opposed the expansion. Sumter Republican Murrell Smith says South Carolina’s Medicaid costs are already growing rapidly. “That’s why we’ve got to deal with the current issues that we’re dealing with now,” he told fellow legislators Tuesday, “We have $156 million (more) in addition to what we had last year just because of the effects of the Affordable Care Act and the growth that we’ve sustained over the years.”
Democrats had also pushed a proposal that would only expand Medicaid coverage for just three years (when it would be fully covered by the federal government). But Republicans opposed that as well, saying it would be politically impossible to revoke the coverage once the three years expired.
Gov. Nikki Haley praised the vote in a statement, “ObamaCare would be a disaster for South Carolina, and we should all be thankful to the House for standing tall and choosing the best road for our people, rather than the road paved by Washington’s empty promises.”
That infuriated Rep. Harry Ott (D-St.Matthews), “A disaster?” he said during the debate, “A disaster is when I let a Cabinet agency get hacked and 3 million peoples’ information gets stolen.”
South Carolina would be required to contribute a 10 percent match after 2020. An estimate by the state Department of Health & Human Services speculated the expansion would cost South Carolina between $619 million and $1.9 billion, depending upon how many people sought treatment. Some Democrats question how the state arrived at the higher end of the estimate, however.