South Carolina’s Medicaid agency has received another taxpayer-funded bailout from Gov. Nikki Haley and her “Republican” allies on the S.C. Budget and Control Board (B&CB).
This bailout – totaling $100 million – comes just six weeks after Haley and the B&CB gave the agency an initial $100 million bailout.
Even worse, the tab is still open … meaning that more money could be en route to the agency before the current fiscal year ends on June 30.
As we’ve noted in the past, the so-called “deficits” at the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are not Haley’s fault. But that doesn’t mean she and her fellow board members should be using surplus revenues to cover them.
Seriously … last year’s budget was the largest in state history. Why in the world is any agency running a shortfall?
Part of the problem lies with the legislature’s micromanagement of the state’s executive branch of government. Under former Gov. Mark Sanford, DHHS attempted to make cuts to its budget in 2008 – but legislative budget writers blocked those efforts. In previous years lawmakers have also refused to let DHHS cut provider rates – making South Carolina the only state in the nation operating under this restriction. On top of that, lawmakers have stripped between $500-550 million from the DHHS budget over the last three years – spreading that money around to cover “shortfalls” at other state agencies.
Beyond shoddy fiscal management, the Palmetto state has a splintered, unaccountable and incompetent health care delivery system. In fact, this dysfunctional structure is one reason we opposed state lawmakers’ recent decision to raise taxes so that they could dump an additional $140 million a year down this same rabbit hole (thank you, Sen. Glenn McConnell).
Of course the larger problem lies in accepting federal money with strings attached – which S.C. lawmakers have been doing for years. This addiction to federal funding (which of course is nothing but money borrowed from future generations of taxpayers) has ballooned our state’s Medicaid population to the point that there are over 975,000 South Carolinians currently enrolled in the program. That total includes 43 percent of the state’s children and 52 percent of all live births. And all of those numbers are going up …
Also, beginning in 2014 states must expand Medicaid to cover all non-elderly individuals with family incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. “Obamacare” and its borrowed billions will pay for the first three years of this expansion, but in 2017 the burden begins to shift to states.
The B&CB debate over the latest Medicaid bailout was particularly contentious. While Haley practically begged for the funds, S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis argued that B&CB members do not have the statutory authority to address mid-year deficits when state lawmakers are in session.
Loftis was the lone member of the B&CB to vote against the measure. Joining Haley in supporting the bailout were Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman (RINO-Florence) and House Ways and Means Chairman Danny Cooper (RINO-Anderson).
That’s obviously not the split that voters were hoping to see.
When Haley and Loftis were nominated by Republicans in 2010 – largely on the strength of the Tea Party movement – it was hoped that they would join Eckstrom to form a fiscally conservative majority on the B&CB. That’s clearly not happening.
We have consistently opposed bailing out state agencies that have exhausted their funds – something we thought Haley and Eckstrom opposed, too.