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TAXPAYERS DESERVE ANSWERS …

Dear Editor,

Legislation is quietly moving through the S.C. General Assembly that could wind up costing taxpayers a fortune.  A health and dental insurance bill – S. 61, sponsored by Senator Brad Hutto – has passed the State Senate and recently cleared the S.C. House ways and means subcommittee.

This bill – which allows approximately 100 political subdivisions to enter the state health plan – has sailed through the both bodies without any meaningful discussion or questions.

There is not a list of these “subdivisions” nor is there a clear estimate of what the cost will be to the plan.  State economists dismiss talk of cost as the plan is “self-insured” and the “rates will reflect the cost.”  However, that does not ensure that the existing plan members will not end up sharing some of the health plan cost, or that rising costs will not cause a further deterioration of the plan … meaning lower service levels, higher deductibles and higher heath insurance premiums.

Political subdivisions can mean a lot of things, not just towns, cities, counties and state agencies. At present, there are organizations such as the S.C. Association of Counties, the S.C. Municipal Association, the S.C. State Ports Authority in the plan.  In fact all told there are 865 different employers in the plan.

I suspect this is a way to have some “favored” groups added to the plan without anyone noticing.

The process – an innocuous bill that sounds good – is what starts most every taxpayer funded boondoggle.  Should costs skyrocket or should “nefarious” groups be included in the plan, no one is responsible because no one ever answered questions or gave testimony or provided useful information.

Questions need to be asked, though – and answered.

Several members of the S.C. House would like to know the names of the groups and their structure (such as private, quasi-government, etc.) but are afraid to ask.  One member said “the leadership wants it and the leadership gets what it wants.”

This bill allows the retirees and their dependents of these unnamed groups to join the state health care plan – which is something that needs to be fully vetted considering the retiree health plan currently has a $10 billion dollar unfunded liability.

That is correct, a $10 billion dollar unfunded liability.

Lastly, there is talk of these plans being “actuarially sound” and that the premiums will be set in an “actuarially sound method.”  Your readers no doubt remember that the $25 billion dollar debt of the state’s pension system was also set in the same “actuarially sound” method.

This is clearly a bill that has far-reaching fiscal impacts for taxpayers.  As such it deserves a detailed fiscal impact study as well as extended public debate over whether these expanded benefits are worth the costs.

Otherwise I suspect we will have yet another financial disaster on our hands.

“Representative Zero”
Columbia, S.C.

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