Commentary: S.C. Gov. Haley offers no solutions for health care reform

Issac Bailey is a columnist for The Sun-News, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Issac Bailey is a columnist for The Sun-News, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. MCT

Much was made of Gov. Nikki Haley's face-to-face meeting last year with President Obama about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Not as much is being made of the governor's lack of a health care reform alternative. But more on that later.

Haley demanded that Obama rescind the Affordable Care Act, saying it was bad for South Carolina. He said he'd support states opting out of the law if they came up with a comprehensive plan of their own - a provision that was already in the law. The state innovation waiver could be utilized by states in 2017, allowing them to put in place health care reform that doesn't include the controversial individual mandate, if they chose, while still receiving all the federal funding to which they are entitled. Vermont, for instance, is planning to use the waiver to implement a state-level single-payer system.

Since that well-publicized meeting between our new governor and the president, Haley has joined Sen. Lindsey Graham's efforts to push through Congress a state opt-out with no strings attached. Haley and Graham want states to be able to go back to where we were before the law, a time when neither the states nor the federal government had done much effective work to stem the tide of rising health care costs - the country's No. 1 fiscal threat.

This past Monday, Haley and Obama were back in the news. Obama announced that he supported a bipartisan effort - well, somewhat bipartisan, given that Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts is the only member of the GOP who has signed on - to push up the availability of the state innovation waiver to 2014, the year when the bulk of the Affordable Care Act kicks in.

Haley said that wasn't good enough.

"He is still not letting states decide what is best for them," she told reporters. "The bottom line is that under his plan, people will drop off private insurance plans from employers and add on to public rolls. That's not reducing health care costs, that's increasing costs. That's not increasing the quality of health care, that's decreasing it."

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act should stem the tide of ridiculous increases in health care costs, insure an additional 32 million people and reduce the country's debt by more than $1.2 trillion over the next two decades. Not only that, the Affordable Care Act has always given states wide latitude. South Carolina can set up the all-important health care exchanges in ways that work best for this population, even if they are quite different from, say, California's.

Haley has attended numerous news conferences, given countless interviews, and her office sends out news releases touting her stance against the Affordable Care Act.

What the governor hasn't done is told the residents of South Carolina what kind of health care reform she'd implement if the law is repealed, if Graham's opt out makes its way through Congress, or if the state plans to use the 2017 opt out already in the current law.

So I asked her office when we can expect her plan. This is how they answered:

"The truth is that this is a work in progress," said Haley's press secretary Rob Godfrey. "What I can tell you is that Governor Haley is working on a regular basis with [Health and Human Services] Director Tony Keck, one of the country's brightest heath care minds, to find the best way to offer the people of our state the best quality health care at the lowest price."

Haley has a lot to say about the evils of the health reform law. Why isn't she spending more time talking about her own?

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