Last week started early with the Legislature going into session on Monday, March 11 instead of the usual Tuesday. The week was devoted completely to the $6 billion budget.
The budget has two basic parts: actual budget with all the line items for each department, and the Provisos.
The first part of the budget displays each agency of South Carolina government with a breakdown of how each dollar will be expended during the next budget year. Also, in the display is the previous year's budget giving the reader an easy way to see the increases or decreases for that agency.
This year we have increased the budgets to several agencies while others may have a slight decrease.
There was much debate on South Carolina accepting Medicaid expansion. After more than seven hours of debate, the House defeated the three amendments to the budget to accept the Medicaid expansion.
Accepting Medicaid expansion from the Federal government is not a stimulus package as some would think. Medicaid money, if we do not accept it, will not go to other states. Medicaid is a reimbursement draw based on the number of people enrolled in Medicaid. This program needs to be reformed to make it sustainable long-term and that comes from incentivizing positive outcomes and directing scarce dollars to successful providers, not dumping more people onto government assistance.
House Republicans put forth an alternative that we approved in this budget. The alternative would provide $20 million – $6 million from the state and $14 million from the federal government – to pay rural hospitals for care they give low-income patients. This proposal was endorsed by Gov. Haley in her State of the State address.
In addition, $8 million is budgeted to expand a tele-medicine program at the Medical University of South Carolina. This will help provide specialist care in rural areas to lower the costs of employing specialists in these areas.
There is also $7 million to help "aged, blind or disabled persons" pay for residential-care facilities. This is already an area where we have prioritized our Medicaid dollars. Finally we budgeted $3 million to help repay the student loans of doctors who work in underserved areas of the state. This plan does not spend any new money for health care.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don't hesitate to contact me at 553-9288 or at the State House at (803) 734-2951, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.