By Ashley Byrd, South Carolina Radio Network
Cigarettes may be way to pay for some health care in South Carolina. That’s according to groups who support a cigarette tax to fill state budget gaps.
At a Wednesday press event at the Statehouse, various groups and a few legislators offered a cigarette tax as a solution. That includes Senator Thomas Alexander, a Republican from Oconee, who says it is time to make use of the potential revenue.
Numerous proposals to increase the state’s cigarette tax have been on the table since 2002 and have never been enacted into law. Last year, the bill died in a dispute over how to spend the money. The 12 groups at Wednesday’s rally, along with some legislators, believe that the money should go to cover the Medicaid match.
Speaking for the Appleseed Legal Justice Center, Sue Berkowitz says, “We now hear that the new budget that is going to the House that the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) program that took seven years to get passed, where children from 151 percent to 200 percent of poverty – by definition, children in households where their parents are working but can’t afford health care–are going to be cut.”
Groups that took part in Wednesday’s event included: AARP South Carolina, SC Hospital Association, Appleseed Legal Justice Center, SC Fair Share, SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters of SC, United Way of SC, United Way of the Midlands, Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Family Connection, March of Dimes of SC, and Federation of Families of SC.
The AARP’s Teresa Arnold says South Carolina is losing out in more than $3 billion in federal Medicaid match money.