Originally created 12/26/05

Medicaid plan facing study



COLUMBIA - A plan to overhaul health care benefits for the poor could be delayed by lawmakers.

Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, said Medicaid is an investment, and he wants a study of the economic impact of the proposed changes.

Mr. Leventis plans to introduce a bill next month that would require the state Board of Economic Advisors to do a fiscal impact study on the overhaul plan.

The study would have to detail how any impact brought about by changes in the state and federal program would affect South Carolina's Medicaid recipients and the state overall.

That includes any effect on jobs and income in each of the five years of the proposal's life.

Gov. Mark Sanford proposed some 30 changes to the state-federal health care program to save money - about $300 million by some estimates.

The changes include an increase in co-payments for Medicaid recipients.

The federal government must approve any changes to the plan, but Mr. Leventis wants to know what the changes would do to the state's economy.

He said a University of South Carolina study found Medicaid has a ripple effect in the state's economy and cuts would cost the state jobs and harm per capita income.

"I can't imagine what a $300 million reduction in Medicaid would do to per capita income," Mr. Leventis said.

The three-year-old USC study was developed for the state Health and Human Services Department, which oversees the state Medicaid program.

The study found that the state's Medicaid allotment had a $2.1 billion ripple effect on the South Carolina economy. Federal Medicaid matching funds supported 61,000 jobs and pumped $1.5 billion in income into the state in 2002, according to the study.

A 4 percent cut in state funding that would come with a cut in federal dollars received would mean a loss of almost 2,500 jobs, the report concluded.

Mr. Sanford's overhaul also has been criticized by advocates for the poor and disabled, including the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center which does advocacy work for low-income communities.