I was not surprised to read that last Tuesday the South Carolina Senate killed Medicaid expansion, which reportedly, was the last hope for supporters who wanted to extend health insurance benefits to South Carolina’s working poor. I was, however, pleasantly surprised that state Sen. Ray Cleary, a dentist by trade, voted in support of accepting federal support to pay for health insurance for about 320,000 South Carolinians beginning Jan. 1.
Sen. Cleary is to be commended for bucking his own Republican party by agreeing with the majority of South Carolinians, according to recent polls, who want our elected officials to find a way to reclaim our dollars.
Had the Senate voted to accept the funds, the state would have received $795.8 million with a total of over $11 billion having been sent to South Carolina by the year 2020, of which South Carolinians would have only had to pay 10 percent of the expansion cost. To me, this sounds like one heck of a deal for our state and extremely beneficial to this state’s citizens.
If, at this point, you are incensed that our debt ridden federal government would dish out billions of dollars for what has been labeled Obamacare, let me remind you that the same debt ridden federal government, with the endorsement of our two conservative Republican U.S. senators, has approved an additional $90 billion for the fiscal year 2014 to continue a winless 12-year-old war in Afghanistan, a war that has thus far cost this country over $700 billion. Yet, these same senators are the first to moan about the cost of health care!
I felt a need to contact Sen. Cleary via his website and thank him for his vote. By noon of the same day, the senator responded with an in-depth email that explained his deep dislike of Obamacare, but his pragmatic calculus which saw the benefits to local hospitals of accepting these federal funds.
“My role is to determine what is best for my citizens and that is my focus.” Cleary warned that turning down the expansion, and in the process cutting existing funds for hospitals could lead to negative consequences such as “less staff, longer wait times, no upgrades of equipment” and cost shifting that could increase prices “by hundreds of dollars for all of us who have private insurance.”
Should you think I am a crony of Senator Cleary because I sing his praises for his vote, you would be wrong. I have never met the man and I certainly would not want to taint his brave actions by being endorsed by a moderate. No, my intention was to simply praise a rare politician who has studied the issues and decided it would be better for his constituents to accept an infusion of $11 billion dollars for health care rather than tow the party line and engage in hysterics.
The writer lives in Murrells Inlet.