Coalition changes course in push for health coverage for poor in S.C.

The State
March 4, 2015


COLUMBIA, SC — A coalition pushing for South Carolina leaders to expand Medicaid has paid for space on an electronic billboard that updates the federal money left on the table by the minute. The total is more than $2 billion, and it goes up about $3,500 every time the message roles back around on the billboard.

Close the Gap SC is made up of many of the groups that urged legislators to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act in 2014. Because Gov. Nikki Haley and Republican leaders refused to accept the expansion, about 194,000 people in the state fell into a coverage gap.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in a case that could wipe out federal health insurance subsidies for people in South Carolina making about $12,000 through $46,000. About 115,000 people in the state could lose those subsidies depending on the ruling.

The Close the Gap group is focusing on people who weren’t eligible for the subsidies or for Medicaid because they made between about $6,000 and $12,000 per year. The groups behind Close the Gap changed their strategy slightly this year, asking lawmakers to follow the lead of several other Republican-dominated states to use the federal money to pay for a private option health insurance program for low-income residents.

“Other red states are moving in this direction,” said Frank Knapp, CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “We should, too.”

Knapp and Teresa Arnold, state director of AARP, said the Close the Gap coalition is working with lawmakers to draft legislation on the private option solution. “There is a chance we can at least make a run at it,” Knapp said.

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