Unemployment Insurance Debt – South Carolina

South Carolina pays off $1B unemployment debt to federal government, By Seanna Adcox (AP), June 11, 2015, Post and Courier: “South Carolina’s unemployment agency has paid off its nearly $1 billion debt to the federal government, five months ahead of schedule. Gov. Nikki Haley announced that the Department of Employment and Workforce made a final payment Thursday of $120 million. Early payments over the past four years have collectively saved businesses nearly $13 million in interest, while also reducing their insurance taxes…”

Food Stamp Trafficking

A new push to halt food stamp trafficking, By Jake Grovum, November 10, 2014, Stateline: “Backed by a $300,000 federal grant, South Carolina officials are trying a new approach to what they call a particularly insidious problem: food stamp trafficking. The pilot program gained approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this fall, and if successful, could provide a model for other states looking to limit trafficking of food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Officials use the word ‘trafficking’ to describe the sale of food stamp benefits for cash, or the use of the benefits to turn a profit instead of to purchase food. They say stories about trafficking undermine public confidence in a program that, despite huge growth during the Great Recession, has seen other measures of error rates fall to historic lows…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Medicaid expansion could add thousands of jobs in state, By Liv Osby, December 7, 2012, Greenville News: “Expanding the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act could mean some 44,000 new jobs and millions in additional revenues for the state by 2020, according to a new report from the South Carolina Hospital Association. That includes a total of 10,172 jobs in the Upstate, 3,152 of them in Greenville County and 831 in Pickens County, the report obtained by GreenvilleOnline.com shows. About a third of the jobs will be outside the health care sector because of the multiplier effect. And that additional employment would translate into about $1.5 billion in labor income and $3.3 billion in economic activity by 2020, according to the report prepared by the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business. Medicaid now covers about one in four South Carolinians, most of them children…”
  • Study: Expanding Medicaid could save Wyoming millions, By Joshua Wolfson, December 7, 2012, Casper Star-Tribune: “Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could save Wyoming more than $47 million over six years, according to a Wyoming Health Department report released today. Medicaid expansion would allow the state to spend fewer general fund dollars on other health programs, more than offsetting the cost of adding thousands of new people to the program, the study shows. The Health Department expects Medicaid expansion will cost the state $151 million between 2014 and 2020. But over that time, it projects $198.5 million in offsetting savings if Wyoming chooses to fully participate in the expansion…”

Foster Care System – South Carolina

Some children spending less time in foster care, By Ron Barnett, October 17, 2012, Greenville News: “The state Department of Social Services has stepped up the rate of moving long-term foster children back with their parents or to adoptive families by 50 percent in the past fiscal year, a trend that has drawn both praise and criticism. DSS increased the number of foster children moving into permanent homes from 789 in 2010-11 to 1,184 in the 12-month cycle that ended June 30. Nearly two-thirds of the children who left long-term foster care during the year went to adoptive families rather than being reunited with their biological family, according to DSS figures. Faster movement through the foster care system is part of a national trend, but South Carolina had the second-highest percentage drop in the nation in the number of children in foster care between July 2011 and July 2012, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services…”

Welfare-to-Work Program – South Carolina

DSS: SC welfare-to-work program exceeded goal, By Seanna Adcox (AP), October 2, 2012, The State: “The director of South Carolina’s social services agency said Tuesday more of its clients are getting jobs and coming off welfare rolls. But an advocate for the poor says that doesn’t mean they’re making a livable wage. Department of Social Services Director Lillian Koller said nearly 12,300 people stopped receiving welfare payments between September 2011 and June through its welfare-to-work program. That’s more than double the number during those months a year earlier and exceeds Koller’s goal by 22 percent. Koller said the more important figure is the 21,000 children whose parents are now working and can break the cycle of poverty…”

Welfare-to-Work Program – South Carolina

More welfare recipients transitioning to employment, By Gina Smith, August 9, 2012, The State: “An increasing number of South Carolinians are getting off welfare and into jobs, according to the S.C. Department of Social Services, which oversees the state’s welfare-to-work program. More than 10,600 South Carolinians got off welfare and got jobs in the 10-month period that ended June 30, according to the agency. That is more than double the 5,060 individuals who transitioned from assistance to work in 2010. Doubling the number was a top goal of new Social Services director Lillian Koller, who told the agency’s staff to change the way it was serving welfare clients…”

2012 Kids Count Data Book – Southern States

  • Report says 1 in 4 Kentucky children and 1 in 5 Hoosier kids are mired in child poverty, By Jessie Halladay, July 25, 2012, Louisville Courier-Journal: “One in four Kentucky children lives in poverty, and their numbers have increased starkly since 2005, according to the latest Kids Count report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Mirroring a national trend, the number of the state’s children living below the poverty line – defined in 2010 as $22,113 for a family of two adults and two children – rose 18 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the annual report, which provides an annual snapshot of child well-being. In Indiana, one in five children lives in poverty, a 29 percent increase between 2005 and 2010…”
  • Maryland ranks 10th in child well-being, national study says, By Yvonne Wenger, July 25, 2012, Baltimore Sun: “Fewer Maryland children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods than a decade ago, but the lingering economic slump has left more parents without a steady paycheck, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported Wednesday. The Baltimore-based charity ranks Maryland 10th in the nation for overall child well-being in its 2012 Kids Count Data Book, which analyzed nationwide research and statistics on children’s economic well-being, education, health, family and community…”
  • Study: More SC kids living in poverty, By Gina Smith, July 26, 2012, The State: “South Carolina ranks near the bottom – 43rd among the 50 states – in a ranking of children’s well being. That is according to the newly released Kids Count report, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that assesses the overall health of the nation’s children, including their economic health, family situation and education. The most-troubling S.C. finding is the number of children living in poverty…”
  • Kids Count report ranks W.Va. as one of worst in education, By Megan Workman, July 24, 2012, Charleston Gazette: “With nearly four out of five eighth-grade students who are not proficient in math, West Virginia received one of the worst education rankings in the country, a national report being released today shows. Nationwide, the percentage of eighth-graders who are not proficient in math decreased from 72 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2011, according to the report. West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation in education, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book. Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico and Nevada join West Virginia as the five states ranked weakest for education…”
  • Alabama 45th of 50 for child well-being in 2012 Kids Count Data Book, By Kim Chandler, July 25, 2012, Birmingham News: “Alabama made its best showing ever in an annual ranking of child well-being, but it still came in 45th among the 50 states. The 2012 Kids Count Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed Alabama made gains in education but continues to struggle with high rates of child poverty. The report ranked Alabama 45th, the state’s best ranking since the Data Book began publication in 1990…”
  • Oklahoma lags in child well-being ranks, By Mike Averill, July 25, 2012, Tulsa World: “Despite slight improvement, Oklahoma remains near the bottom of the country for child well-being, according to a national report that ranks states using an index of 16 indicators in four categories. Oklahoma ranked 40th overall, up from last year’s 43rd spot, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation…”
  • Texas 44th in children’s well-being, By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, July 26, 2012, San Antonio Express-News: “Texas ranks 44th among the states when it comes to the health and well-being of its children, according to a study by a Baltimore nonprofit that advocates for at-risk kids. Using the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, the study found the child poverty rate in Texas was higher in 2010 than the national rate of 22 percent, with 26 percent living in poverty. Texas was second from the bottom in children who lack health insurance, with an uninsured rate of 14 percent in 2010, although that’s been decreasing…”
  • Report ranks Florida behind most states on child health and education, By Margie Menzel, July 26, 2012, Daytona Beach News-Journal: “A new report Wednesday shows Florida trailing most other states in the health and education of its children — with an especially low ranking in economic well-being. The effects are harmful and could be long-term — not just for the children but for the state, advocates say. The annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Florida 44th in the economic well-being of its children, 38th in their health outcomes and 35th in their educational performance. The state ranks 38th overall. The number of Florida children living in poverty is up 28 percent from 2005 to 2010, the last year for which data was included in the study. That measurement considers such factors as whether the parents have secure employment or the ability to cover their housing costs…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs

  • SC bill would require drug tests for welfare, By Seanna Cox (AP), March 22, 2012, Charlotte Observer: “Opponents of a bill requiring all welfare applicants in South Carolina to pass a drug test said Thursday the costly proposal would violate the constitution, but its sponsor said it’s a requirement constituents want. Rep. Tom Young, R-Aiken, said if someone is using illegal drugs, they should not get a taxpayer-funded benefit. ‘There is no justification,’ he said. ‘How do we know those kids are getting the benefit of the welfare money versus their parents spending them on illegal drugs?’ Opponents said the legislation is unwarranted and fuels an inaccurate stereotype of poor people who need a boost. A House panel postponed voting on the bill Thursday. Young’s bill mimics a law in Florida that took effect last July and was blocked by a federal judge in October. During those interim months, less than 4 percent of applicants in that state tested positive…”
  • Bill to drug test welfare recipients advances, March 21, 2012, Mansfield News Journal: “A proposal that would drug test people as a condition of receiving welfare advanced Wednesday evening in the Senate. The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee 7-1. The legislation is different from an original proposal that would have broadly tested people. In an opinion this week on that proposal and other pending bills that seek to drug test welfare recipients, Tennessee’s attorney general said the requirement would violate federal laws regulating Social Security, the federal food stamp program and the state Medicaid plan…”

Unemployment System – South Carolina

Audit: SC jobless agency safeguards didn’t work, By Jeffrey Collins (AP), March 13, 2012, The State: “The second independent audit of South Carolina’s unemployment agency in the past two years has found its system for checking whether people getting jobless benefits also received wages at a job didn’t work properly for six years. The Legislative Audit Council’s latest report, released Tuesday, also found the Department of Employment and Workforce does not consistently verify that people receiving jobless benefits are looking for work. It said unemployment offices are sometimes impossible to reach on the phone and some employers are making the agency’s job tougher by not following the law and reporting the identities of new hires. The report did praise some actions taken since the last audit in 2010, including work to make sure that the trust fund that pays benefits is brought back in balance by 2015…”

States and Jobless Benefits

  • 99 week maximum for jobless benefits may drop as low as 59 weeks, By Olivera Perkins, January 26, 2012, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “People thrust out of work in Ohio might have to settle for a much shorter period of unemployment benefits. Jobless workers here have been able to count on 99 weeks of benefits, but the maximum could fall to as low as 59 weeks. That possibility raises a divisive question: Is 99 weeks — almost two years — too long to draw jobless benefits…?”
  • Jobless benefits to expire unless Pa. House acts, By Laura Olson, January 31, 2012, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Thousands of Pennsylvanians will see their federally funded unemployment benefits expire after this week, with legislation to extend those checks lingering in the state House of Representatives. A pending measure, which passed the state Senate last week, would offer 13 additional weeks of benefits to the state’s jobless residents. The federal funding was approved by Congress in December but requires the state to tweak its unemployment compensation rules in order to receive those dollars. That bill is awaiting consideration by a House panel, which has a vote scheduled for Monday. Legislative staffers say the belatedly approved benefits would be retroactive, but pressures to also enact broader changes to the state’s unemployment compensation system could further hold up that assistance…”
  • Study: Safety net misses many jobless in Nevada, By Ed Vogel, January 30, 2012, Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Las Vegans Dylan Wikoff and Jorge Suescun Hijuelos know firsthand the downward spiral that occurs once you lose your job and then exhaust your unemployment benefits without finding work. ‘I ended up homeless on Fremont Street,’ said Wikoff, a 36-year-old Marine Corps veteran who was laid off more than two years ago from a sales job at a construction supply company. ‘It was a slow downward spiral for me,’ said Hijuelos, 51, a longtime union construction worker who had never been without work for more than a few weeks until the completion of the CityCenter project. ‘I sold my car, sold my bedroom set, sold everything to pay my rent. I went from a beautiful condo to renting rooms by the week. I slept in a couple of fields.’ These polite and bright men are not unusual. They actually are some of the lucky ones in the never-ending recession in Nevada…”
  • Tension rises over Maine bill tackling unemployment insurance fraud, By Steve Mistler, January 30, 2012, Lewiston Sun Journal: “A controversial bill that would increase the penalties for unemployment fraud and the qualifications to receive out-of-work benefits is meeting stiff resistance from worker advocates. The proposal, LD 1725, was presented by the Department of Labor, which argued that an increase in unemployment claims has been accompanied by an increased possibility of fraud. Additionally, employer advocates are championing a provision in the proposal that would stop exempting vacation pay from the waiting period to receive benefits. Opponents, however, say the bill’s proposal to increase potential criminal penalties for unemployment fraud from a maximum of one year to 10 years in prison is extreme for a state that has one of the nation’s lowest unemployment fraud rates. In addition, they say the bill’s increased work-search mandates will force unemployed workers to take a job well beneath their skill and wage level…”
  • Senators want to end jobless benefits for fired workers, By Gina Smith, January 26, 2012, The State: “State senators said Wednesday that they want to make sure that workers who were fired cannot get state unemployment benefits in the future. A Senate panel Wednesday advanced a bill that would prevent workers fired for misconduct from receiving any state unemployment benefits. Under current law, these workers can get jobless benefits for from five to 20 weeks, depending on the type and severity of their workplace infraction. The fired workers still would be eligible for up to 58 weeks of federal unemployment benefits under the proposal…”

Jobless Benefits – South Carolina

  • SC Senate panel approves unemployment bills, By Seanna Adcox (AP), January 11, 2012, Charlotte Observer: “A Senate panel advanced bills Tuesday that would require people laid off in South Carolina to pass a drug test to receive unemployment benefits, then volunteer 16 hours weekly with a charity or public agency to keep receiving a check. Though the panel heard testimony that both proposals would likely conflict with federal law, its chairman, Sen. Kevin Bryant, said afterward that doesn’t matter…”
  • Jobless may be forced to take drug tests and volunteer, By Tim Flach, January 11, 2012, The State: “A legislative tug-of-war started Tuesday over proposals to require laid-off workers to take a drug test initially and sign up for community service later to receive unemployment payments.  Both proposals won approval from a Senate panel despite warnings the steps probably would be challenged by federal labor officials as too harsh on many of South Carolina’s nearly 214,000 jobless. The drug-test requirement breezed to initial acceptance amid complaints it is punitive. Making a test a condition for benefits doesn’t send ‘the right message,’ said Sue Berkowitz, who runs a Midlands legal service for the poor…”

Voter ID Law – South Carolina

Opponents say S.C.’s voting law unfair for the poor, By Pam Fessler, October 19, 2011, National Public Radio: “South Carolina is one of several states that passed laws this year requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. The South Carolina measure still needs approval from the U.S. Justice Department to ensure that it doesn’t discriminate against certain voters. Voting rights advocates say the requirement will be a big burden for some, especially the elderly and the poor, who can have a difficult time getting a photo ID – even in this day and age…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • State, feds square off in Medicaid battle, By Heather Gillers, June 5, 2011, Indianapolis Star: “Before he signed a bill cutting Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding last month, Gov. Mitch Daniels said the group could keep the funds if it gave up providing abortions. If Planned Parenthood wanted Medicaid money, in other words, it would have to play by Indiana’s rules. Then, the federal government turned the tables. Federal Medicaid officials rejected Indiana’s Medicaid plan because its provision to strip funding from Planned Parenthood violates federal law. If Indiana wants Medicaid money, the federal government said, the state would have to play by federal rules…”
  • New Jersey seeks to shrink Medicaid, By Joel Rose, June 7, 2011, National Public Radio: “Cash-strapped states are rethinking how much health care coverage they can afford to provide for their neediest residents. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to cut $500 million in Medicaid spending – in part by freezing more than 20,000 state residents out of the program. Critics say the cuts would hurt those who can least afford it. For years, New Jersey expanded health care coverage for low-income residents – people like Deborah Shupenko of Passaic. But last month, after 10 years of state-funded health insurance, Shupenko got a letter in the mail…”
  • More Medicaid cuts on way: Payments to doctors will be reduced; some visits to cost patients $1 more, By Renee Dudley, June 7, 2011, Charleston Post and Courier: “Medicaid payments to doctors will be reduced by up to 7 percent and patient co-payments for some doctor visits will increase by $1 as the South Carolina Medicaid agency cuts an estimated $125 million in state costs for the fiscal year that begins next month, agency officials announced Monday. Beginning July 1, patient co-pays will increase from $2.30 to $3.30 — the maximum amount allowed by federal law — for doctor, clinic, home health and optometrist visits. And for the first time, people enrolled in some programs for the elderly and disabled will be required to make co-pays for some medical services. Starting July 8, Medicaid reimbursement rates to doctors, dentists and most hospitals will be cut for the second time in three months…”

Medicaid Application Process and Enrollment – South Carolina

  • The face of the newly poor, By Yvonne Wenger, August 22, 2100, Charleston Post and Courier: “Every day, an average of 112 people — most of them the newly poor — sign up for free government health care in South Carolina. Since the recession officially hit in December 2007, some 3,300 people a month, on average, have signed up for Medicaid in a state that outpaces the nation for poverty, obesity and diseases such as diabetes. Yet, South Carolina’s political leaders have been among the most vocal in the country in opposition of the new health care law. The new law is intended to provide insurance coverage to a portion of the nearly 17 percent of state residents estimated to be without it. But it won’t come cheap: The law will cost the cash-strapped state nearly $1 billion more over the next decade, even after the federal government kicks in its share. Advocates and academics alike say the federal plan is critical for South Carolina’s future prosperity. Healthy workers draw in new businesses, they say, and an educated population starts with children who aren’t sick when they go to school. But many say Medicaid is only part of the answer to South Carolina’s grave health care needs. Others think government-run health care should not be the solution…”
  • Signing up for Medicaid more difficult, By Yvonne Wenger, August 24, 2010, Charleston Post and Courier: “Tens of thousands of South Carolinians likely are eligible for government-run health care but aren’t signed up because bureaucratic red tape creates obstacles, advocates said Monday. Sue Berkowitz, director of Appleseed Legal Justice Center, and John Ruoff, program director for South Carolina Fair Share, said Medicaid enrollment isn’t keeping pace with the need, despite the seemingly rapid increase during the state’s deep and prolonged economic downturn. Advocates are working to identify how great the need is, but an exact number isn’t clear. More than 750,000 people are estimated to be without health insurance in the state, although not all of them are eligible for Medicaid. A report Sunday by The Post and Courier revealed that as many as 112 people a day sign up for Medicaid in South Carolina. More than 90,000 have enrolled since the recession officially hit in December 2007…”

Unemployment and Home Foreclosures

Oregon gets federal money to help unemployed avert foreclosures, By Charles Pope, August 4, 2010, The Oregonian: “The Obama administration released $600 million Wednesday to help unemployed homeowners in Oregon and four other states avoid foreclosure. Oregon, where one in every 76 homes is facing foreclosure, qualifies for $88 million.The money will be used to help distressed homeowners. The money will be available to state housing authorities in Oregon, Ohio, South Carolina, Rhode Island and North Carolina “to support local initiatives to assist struggling homeowners in these five states that have high percentages of their population living in areas of economic distress due to unemployment,” the Treasury Department said…”

Child Care Subsidies – South Carolina

Child care subsidies keep ‘poorest of the poor’ at work, By Yvonne Wenger, July 25, 2010, Charleston Post and Courier: “Five months and 100-plus job applications after Tamara Townsend’s boss laid her off from her full-time job with a steady paycheck, the 30-year-old single mother finally found work in May. But this job is commission-only selling alarm systems. Some weeks she doesn’t clear a dime. Whether she scores a sale or not doesn’t change the fact that she has to pay for full-time day care for her 7- and 4-year-old daughters. Townsend moved back into her parents’ West Ashley home after she lost her job at a car dealership that went under in December. She was able to secure a scholarship to help offset her weekly bill at Preschool Academy. Still, juggling the cost of child care and a job that isn’t paying the bills makes it hard to justify working. But Townsend doesn’t want to give up trying. It’s a matter of pride and not wanting to set a bad example for her girls. Townsend has joined the growing ranks of middle- and low-income families that can’t afford child care. The Great Recession and lingering economic slump have left many parents to choose between work or staying home, depending on one income or turning to government assistance…”

Health Reform and State Medicaid Programs

  • Healthcare reform fallout: Which states are the winners?, By Ron Scherer, March 26, 2010, Christian Science Monitor: “Under the nation’s healthcare reform plan, the nation’s Medicaid system will grow as one of the main organizations to implement the goal of expanded medical coverage. But it appears that, from a financial standpoint, some states will be winners and some will be losers in this new arrangement. Here’s a look at why some states may stand to benefit. Later today, the Monitor will look at other states, which are complaining that it will cost their taxpayers a lot more money in the future. The biggest winners, state officials and Medicaid experts say, could be those states that have already taken an important step toward expanding their own Medicaid programs: covering childless adults…”
  • Healthcare reform fallout: Which states could lose financially?, By Ron Scherer, March 26, 2010, Christian Science Monitor: “Under the new healthcare reform plan, 16 million more people are expected to join state Medicaid rolls. Recognizing the costs involved, lawmakers have tried to cushion the financial impact on states. But many governors believe the expansion of Medicaid will still be too costly for them. Medicaid is a key part of the plan to expand healthcare coverage in America. From a financial standpoint, some states stand to benefit from the Medicaid provisions – and other states believe they stand to lose. Eleven states, plus the District of Columbia, could come out as winners. They’re so-called expansion states, which already cover childless adults to some extent. They could gain because the federal government will absorb an increasing amount of their obligations…”
  • S.C. Medicaid coverage to expand; cost to soar by $914 million, By John O’Connor, March 25, 2010, The State: “New federal health care legislation will cost the state of South Carolina and its taxpayers $914 million. That cost – the total of spending from July 1 to 2019 – will come as the state adds 480,000 low-income children and adults to a state health insurance program, as required by the new law, according to estimates by the state Department of Health and Human Services. The expansion represents a 4.4 percent increase in the $20.9 billion the state would have spent on Medicaid during that nine-year period, adding roughly $100 million a year to the state’s costs. With the state already facing a likely $1 billion budget shortfall next year, Republican lawmakers – who control the General Assembly – said the additional health care costs are one more reason they oppose implementing the law, which President Barack Obama signed Monday…”
  • Medicaid cost to soar, state says, By Frank Gluck, March 2010, Fort Myers News-Press: “When state Attorney General Bill McCollum announced his lawsuit this week to block new federal health care legislation, he came armed with an intimidating figure for cash-strapped Florida – more than $1 billion. That is the projected annual cost of expanding the Medicaid rolls in 2019 and thereafter, according to the state agency that oversees the insurance program. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s number, which assumes mass increases in Medicaid rolls in the coming decade, would amount to a 6 percent annual increase in the state’s current Medicaid costs…”

State Medicaid Cuts

  • With Medicaid cuts, doctors and patients drop out, By Kevin Sack, March 15, 2010, New York Times: “Carol Y. Vliet’s cancer returned with a fury last summer, the tumors metastasizing to her brain, liver, kidneys and throat. As she began a punishing regimen of chemotherapy and radiation, Mrs. Vliet found a measure of comfort in her monthly appointments with her primary care physician, Dr. Saed J. Sahouri, who had been monitoring her health for nearly two years. She was devastated, therefore, when Dr. Sahouri informed her a few months later that he could no longer see her because, like a growing number of doctors, he had stopped taking patients with Medicaid. Dr. Sahouri said that his reimbursements from Medicaid were so low – often no more than $25 per office visit – that he was losing money every time a patient walked in his exam room. The final insult, he said, came when Michigan cut those payments by 8 percent last year to help close a gaping budget shortfall…”
  • Medicaid puts Missouri governor in a bind, By Virginia Young, March 15, 2010, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “‘Don’t cut care,’ pleaded the sign held by a group of people whose wheelchairs lined a Capitol hearing room. It looked like 2005, when then-Gov. Matt Blunt and the Republican-controlled Legislature cut 100,000 people from Medicaid, the government’s health care program for the poor. But this protest was held last month. The target: Gov. Jay Nixon. Yes, Nixon, the Democrat who promised to expand Medicaid, is seeking $120 million in health care cuts to buoy the sagging state budget. And in a role reversal that illustrates the political quagmire that Medicaid poses for Nixon, it’s the Republican Legislature that is balking…”
  • Cuts might be avoided with Medicaid bailout funds, Associated Press, March 16, 2010, Augusta Chronicle: “South Carolina lawmakers on Monday approved plans that would avoid all cuts in health and medical programs by using federal Medicaid bailout cash. With a 96-6 vote, the House approved a measure that uses $173.6 million in federal Medicaid money to eliminate planned reductions for the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, prescription drugs and other programs. But if the federal money — which has yet to win final approval in Washington — doesn’t materialize, the spending reductions would take effect, said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper, R-Piedmont…”

Extension of Unemployment Benefits – South Carolina

  • State botched chance for aid, By Katy Stech, October 16, 2009, Charleston Post and Courier: “Thousands of out-of-work South Carolinians will miss out on five months of unemployment checks because state officials failed to tweak a rule enabling them to tap into federal stimulus money. The state’s high jobless rate, one of the worst in the country at 11.5 percent, means some unemployed residents could be receiving an additional 20 weeks of checks when they run out of their current state and federal benefits. More than 113,000 South Carolina unemployed residents already have exhausted their benefits. To get access to the additional money, state lawmakers needed to pass temporary changes to the economic index they use to trigger additional emergency benefits in times of unprecedented financial hardship. No bill was ever proposed. South Carolina is one of two states eligible for the most generous benefits but is not receiving them. The other is Mississippi…”
  • Leaders aim to fix benefits, By Katy Stech, October 17, 2009, Charleston Post and Courier: “State lawmakers scrambled Friday to figure out if they could fix an oversight that has cost thousands of out-of-work South Carolinians extended unemployment benefits. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell and House Speaker Bobby Harrell said they support fixing the problem, which could involve calling a special session of the General Assembly, and deployed their staffs to determine the cheapest, easiest way to make the necessary changes to the law. ‘It’s an open-ended question at this point,’ said McConnell, who expects his staff will come up with an answer early next week. Calling a special session, by McConnell’s estimate, would cost about $17,000 but could bring the state tens of millions of dollars in federal money for unemployed residents. Meanwhile, federal policy experts indicated that, if the proper changes are made, some residents who missed out on earlier benefits could start receiving weekly paychecks again…”

Census Data on the Uninsured

  • Rural Indiana is seeing high rates of uninsured, By Daniel Lee, August 4, 2009, Indianapolis Star: “Rural counties as well as areas in manufacturing-heavy Northern Indiana have some of the state’s highest rates of residents lacking health coverage, according to county-by-county data on the uninsured released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Marion County and its surrounding suburban counties, however, all have uninsured rates under the state’s average of 14.3 percent…”
  • Tulsa-area uninsured rates rank low in state, By Kim Archer, August 4, 2009, Tulsa World: “The percentage of uninsured residents in Tulsa County and Oklahoma County are among the lowest statewide, but still well above the 15 percent national average, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Monday. The state average is 21 percent…”
  • Census: 1 in 6 Utahns in ’06 lacked health plan, By James Thalman and Lee Davidson, August 3, 2009, Deseret News: “As Congress debates health-care reform, the U.S. Census Bureau released estimates Monday that one of every six Utahns under age 65 had no health insurance in 2006. And that was before the recession began. Compiling such data from numerous studies and sources takes time and is routinely delayed a few years. Some more up-to-date estimates from newer annual census surveys, which just added questions about whether people are insured, are expected later this year…”
  • Fifth of state residents lack health insurance, By Brian Hicks, August 4, 2009, Charleston Post and Courier: “U.S. Census estimates show that nearly 20 percent of South Carolina residents had no health insurance in 2006, but some experts say the recession likely has pushed that figure closer to one in every four people today. That would put the number of Palmetto State residents without health insurance at more than 1 million. While the nation debates a plan to provide health insurance to all Americans – and many argue over the impact that would have on existing medical care – the Census Bureau study shows that many people don’t have existing medical insurance to begin with…”