Sometimes there is an issue that looks big and complex, with lots of different politicians talking on all sides of it — when in reality, it’s just basic common sense. That is the case with the issue of Medicaid expansion in South Carolina.
Once you get past all the partisan rhetoric, it’s clear that it just makes common sense. That’s why such conservative folk heroes as John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, and his state’s Right to Life organization are now supporting expansion in their state. But sadly, their counterparts in South Carolina are not.
Let’s begin with three actual facts, not political rhetoric.
First, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is the law of the land. It was passed by Congress, signed by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court. All this hot-and-bothered talk about repealing Obamacare is just that — hot-and-bothered talk. It ain’t gonna happen.
Two, the question before our Governor and the state legislature is this: Are we going to accept the $11 billion in federal money to pay for the expansion of Medicaid to 500,000 of our fellow citizens who don’t have health insurance? Either we do, or we don’t. There is no middle ground. More on the money side of this later.
Three, we are all going to pay for the Medicaid expansion with our taxes. It’s as much a part of the federal budget as highway funding or buying more tanks. Nothing that you or I or the state of South Carolina does will affect this. The only question is, will South Carolina accept its share of the money or will it go to some other state?
Now, three more facts, this time about the economics of all this. Again, “just the facts ma’am,” no rhetoric.
One, Medicaid expansion will provide $11 billion dollars to provide health care to 500,000 of our friends and neighbors. And it will cost us virtually nothing. For the first three years, the Federal government picks up 100 percent of the cost. After that, state government only has to pick up 10 percent. And the state’s hospitals have already essentially said that they will pay this 10 percent when it comes due.
Two, beyond the medical benefits to our people, we are talking about an $11 billion investment in the economy of our state. That is almost ten times the initial South Carolina investments of BMW and Boeing combined. This money will pay to hire nurses, hospital workers, food-service people, fuel the construction industry, and so on.
Eleven billion is a huge amount of money and if a prospective industry said they were thinking about coming to our state with this kind of investment, Gov. Haley and her supporters would be chasing them like a pack of hungry hounds after a fat rabbit — and throwing multi-million incentives at them.
Three, the expansion goes to the people who financially need it most. The lowest of low income people, such as a single parent with one child making less than 7,400 per year, are already covered by Medicaid. This expansion will go to those such as a family of four making up to $30,650 a year. These are the families that are working three or four jobs, trying to make ends meet. They are only a paycheck away from financial disaster or even homelessness. These are the folks with one hand on the bottom rung on the economic ladder, trying to climb up to the middle class. A sick family member with a big medical bill is like a kick in the face to them; it means they are off the ladder or possibly even out on the street.
All of which brings us back to Governor John Kasich of Ohio and his right-to-life supporters. Before getting elected Governor, Kasich was a member of Congress for 18 years, where he earned a reputation as a conservative ideologue. He likes to say that he was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party. And as for Ohio Right to Life, well, they are Ohio Right to Life.
And what are they saying about Medicaid expansion? Kasich specifically refutes the arguments used by Gov. Haley and others who oppose expansion. Kasich on the tax issue: “Ohioans shouldn’t be robbed of their fair share.” On the economic issue: It helps in “keeping Ohio’s economy strong, so our state can keep creating jobs.” On opposing the money going to other states: “…where it will go to work helping to rev up some other state’s economy instead of Ohio’s.”
And what say the Right-to-Life folks? “We support this critical initiative which undoubtedly will help the most vulnerable in Ohio and save lives… [by] supporting life before as well as after birth by helping the poor and the sick.”
So there you have it, a Tea Party Governor and his ideological soul mates rising above ideological rhetoric to stand up and do what’s best for their state. It’s the kind of leadership we have the right to expect from Gov. Haley; she should do the same and stand up for the people of South Carolina.
Gov. Kasich said it best, “I make no apologies for ever standing up for my state and any governor who would is in the wrong job.”
Clearly, Gov. Haley is in the wrong job. And we should all remember that in November of 2014.
— Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent group started by former Gov. Richard Riley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.SCNewDemocrats.org.