With nearly a quarter of every state dollar spent on Medicaid — second only to the public schools — it was inevitable that lawmakers would look to the state-federal health insurance program for the poor to help close an $800 million gap in next year’s budget. There’s simply no other way to balance the budget, short of raising taxes or taking nearly all the cuts out of education.
What wasn’t inevitable was that anyone would seriously suggest that a legitimate option would be to drop out of the program. But with Texas lawmakers discussing just that and S.C. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell suggesting we temporarily stop providing Medicaid when funds for the current fiscal year run out in March, state Sen. David Thomas recently told The Greenville News that if the state created its own “bare bones” insurance program for indigent care, “You may not have to have the federal government.”
Even House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Cooper said dropping out of Medicaid had to be looked at. In fairness to Mr. Cooper, he seems to understand that’s not a workable option, but if he’s going to float the idea, then someone needs to float the obvious response: Are you out of your mind?
In a normal economy, dropping out of Medicaid would be heartless, as it would throw nearly a quarter of the state’s poorest and sickest citizens off of the only medical insurance program they have, and an economic lose-lose.
In this economy, it would be economic suicide, sucking more than $4 billion a year out of the state and crippling hospitals (which still would by law have to provide care to anyone who seeks it), as well as doctors and pharmacies that rely on that money.
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