The House debated the state budget this week.
House Republicans stuck to our long-standing tradition of holding to the state spending limit that we have approved six times over the past decade. This year’s $6.3 billion budget grew by 2.86 percent, which is well below the “population plus inflation” benchmark.
The big fight of the week was over whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program by $12 billion to comply with Medicaid. Democrats put forward a plan on Monday to “temporarily expand” the program by one or three years – an idea we rejected. Government never reduces itself in size, and as Ronald Reagan pointed out: “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”
On three votes, and along party lines, we rejected these attempts at expansion. The Medicaid budget as it exists now is already growing at 4 times the rate of the rest of the state budget. That is unsustainable and putting up to 40% of our state on a government healthcare plan is simply not possible.
Ways and Means Chairman Brian White, Rep. Murrell Smith, and the Republicans on the committee have an alternative that we approved in the budget this week. Instead of radically increasing the number of people on Medicaid, our plan redirects existing Medicaid dollars to hospitals more to keep the uninsured out of emergency rooms.
The “Plan B” will pay hospitals $35 million to direct the uninsured – in non-emergency situations – to existing free clinics and rural health clinics that were created to serve the uninsured. We also want to redirect an additional $10 million to the state’s 20 federally qualified health clinics to treat more patients.
To reiterate, the plan does not spend any new money health care.
As Speaker Harrell said this week, if we throwing more money at healthcare would result in a healthier population, we would have the healthiest people on the plant. Instead, we’re continuing to spend money on poor outcomes. The Republican plan means we won’t blow an asteroid-sized hole in future state budgets and instead we’ll work to control spending and incentivize better outcomes.
Here’s what the Republican plan includes:
- $20 million – $6 million from the state and $14 million from the federal government – to pay rural hospitals for care they give low-income patients. This proposal was endorsed by Governor Haley in her State of the State address.
- $8 million to expand a tele-medicine program at the Medical University of South Carolina. This will help provide specialist care in rural areas to lower the costs of employing specialists in these areas.
- $7 million to help “aged, blind or disabled persons” pay for residential-care facilities. This is already an area where we have prioritized our Medicaid dollars, and
- $3 million to help repay the student loans of doctors who work in underserved areas of the state.
As a state, we have decided to direct our precious Medicaid dollars to children, the elderly, and pregnant women. This plan will expand access to healthcare across the state, while not creating a new cycle of government dependency.