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SC Medicaid Expansion: Death By Degrees

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S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s record on health care spending is far from perfect. She approved more than $200 million in deficit spending at her S.C. Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) during her first two years in office, and is backing a massive $83 million expansion of Medicaid spending in the coming fiscal year.

Not only that, Haley has already spent more than $60 million on a bid to expand the state’s Medicaid population – and wants to spend additional money to expand that population further.

Health care spending in the Palmetto State is out of control … and Haley has done nothing to stop it.

Still, Haley has (to her credit) rejected the broader Medicaid expansion associated with U.S. President Barack Obama’s socialized medicine law – which aims to enroll another 500,000 South Carolinians in the program. The federal government (which is currently $16.6 trillion in debt) would “pay for” most of the costs associated with the expansion, but state government’s percentage would total hundreds of millions of dollars annually by 2020.

States get to choose whether they accept this new spending or not, though, one of the few bright spots of the otherwise disastrous U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare.

More than 1.1 million South Carolinians (roughly a quarter of the state’s population) received Medicaid benefits last year. Meanwhile 43 percent of the state’s children and 52 percent of its live births are covered by the program. That’s crazy, people. More to the point, though, if our state and nation were truly “recovering” wouldn’t we be making plans to reduce those rolls? And to cut the spending associated with them?

Hmmmm …

S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) – who is likely to challenge Haley for the governor’s office in 2014 – believes the state should take the “free money” associated with Obamacare. Citing a bogus University of South Carolina study, Sheheen claims the Medicaid expansion would create jobs and generate revenue for the state (never mind that $11.2 billion price tag).

Here’s the other thing: South Carolina has dramatically expanded its Medicaid population over the last decade – and yet this expansion (and the broader growth of state government) has done absolutely nothing to benefit our economy. In fact it has held us back as a state.

What makes Sheheen think things will be different this time?

Sheheen’s endorsement of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion represents a colossal tactical miscalculation. In one stroke, he has surrendered what could have been an incredibly potent weapon against Haley (her “Haleycare” spending) and handed her a club with which to repeatedly beat him about the head.

In fact, remember this line … because you’ll be hearing something very similar to it ad nauseam prior to next year’s general election …

While Nikki Haley stood tall for taxpayers against Obamacare’s reckless spending, Vincent Sheheen tried to drive up our debt and bankrupt future generations of taxpayers …

Yeah … that’s cooking with gas, people.

Neither Haley nor Sheheen has a leg to stand on when it comes to the Medicaid expansion issue (both are big government backers with terrible records), but Sheheen’s endorsement of the Obamacare expansion means Haley is marginally more taxpayer-friendly – not to mention infinitely better off from a political perspective.

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Pic: Travis Bell Photography