Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lawmakers disappointed in session, point to Haley

In a session-end wrap-up published by the Times and Democrat of Orangeburg, Sen. Brad Hutto noted that the General Assembly this year wasted a lot of time on "non-issues" rather than the issues that mattered to South Carolinians.

"We wasted a long time with non-issues, like voter ID and illegal immigration," Hutto said. "We needed to focus on the jobs situation and health care.

Rep. Jerry Govan said the same.

"The leadership did nothing to create jobs," Govan said. "When you look at the governor and her priorities and her vetoes, such as money cut from public education, it left me with an empty feeling.

"It is unfortunate. Until South Carolina sees fit to bring a greater balance in representation, this is what we'll continue to have."

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said the chambers' majorities, who control the agenda, played to "wedge" issues to appease their "base."

"We just threw red meat to the base and played all the wedge national and social issues," the Orangeburg Democrat said. "We didn't do a whole lot to make life better for the average South Carolinian.

"My biggest disappointment is failure of the bill sponsored by Rep. (Harold) Mitchell and me to create a state health benefit exchange. As a result, I strongly believe we will wind up with a federal exchange being forced on us."

Ah, Rep. Cobb-Hunter, creating a state health benefit exchange might give Her Excellency a reason to take federal health insurance funds designated for that specific purpose, and everyone from Timbuktu to Thailand knows she refuses to take federal funds available to us to help the poor, the weak, the very young, the very old, and generally those who would benefit from having better access to health care.

Gov. Nikki Haley has decided South Carolina won't pursue any more grant money from the federal health care overhaul to fund a possible state-run health insurance exchange.

"The governor has said she's going to evaluate these opportunities as they come as to what's best for South Carolina," said Tony Keck, the director of the state Department of Health and Human Services. "The one decision she's already made is that there is no reason for South Carolina to apply for additional money related to health insurance exchanges."

Keck made the comments on Thursday after the second meeting of the South Carolina Health Planning Committee, a group established by a Haley executive order that's looking at setting up a state-run health insurance exchange and other opportunities to improve access to and reduce the cost of health care.

A health insurance exchange is an online marketplace where consumers can shop for and compare health insurance policies. The federal health care overhaul dictates that states must set up their own exchanges to go live when the law goes into full effect in 2014 or have the federal government step in and set up one for them. The government has the option of taking over the process in states not meeting certain benchmarks by the end of 2012.

The government’s stated goal in mandating the exchanges is to lower the cost of insurance for consumers by increasing competition and to reduce the number of uninsured people, about 17 percent of South Carolinians.

Better luck next governor, Rep. Cobb-Hunter.

Sen. John Matthews may have assessed Haley most succinctly, and given her the best advice of the year:

"The biggest thing was the governor's leadership, candor and willingness to be straight up affects her ability to get things done. In the House, where she should have enjoyed her strongest support, they overturned her vetoes.

"I hope she learns from this. In the final analysis she needs to learn how to work with the General Assembly."

Oh, Sen. Matthews, to have the optimism of the young again.

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