CONWAY The Healthy Democracy Road Show is going to use more tools than its 10-day tour of South Carolina to convince voters that healthcare is the issue to decide which candidate’s box to check, and so the relatively low turnout in the first five days was not a make or break situation.
When the Road Show rolled into Conway Monday afternoon, Wayne Borders, field organizer for the sponsoring SC Progressive Network, estimated it had attracted a maximum of 150 people total at previous stops in Columbia, the Midlands and Charleston. The fact that no S.C. voters turned out to hear its pitch at Bethel AME Church was tempered by the fact that a newspaper reporter was there to help spread the word.
The Road Show, according to advance publicity, was to try to “cut through the misinformation around the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion in South Carolina.”
The state is among those that refused federal money to expand its Medicaid program to cover more than 300,000 South Carolinians who make a minimum wage or less and would be eligible for coverage if the expansion had taken place.
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The federal government was to fully fund the expansion for three years and mostly fund it thereafter, but the state’s decision makers didn’t trust the federal government to keep up its end of the bargain. They feared that the state’s share would continue to grow and would become a burden to taxpayers.
Those with the Road Show in Conway Monday said S.C. taxpayers already help to pay for the federal government’s share, and inferred it would be their money regardless of who wrote the check.
Nearly 12,000 of those South Carolinians denied Medicaid in the expansion are Horry County residents, according to a Road Show email promoting the event. As a result of the denial, the Road Show cited the Harvard Medical School in saying 1,000 of the 300,000 will die this year.
The expansion would have brought $1 billion to South Carolina this year, would have relieved state hospitals of $250 million spent on unpaid care and created 44,000 new jobs that would have paid more than enough in state taxes to cover its share of the expansion, according to the email.
“It’s not just about the money we turned down,” Borders said. “The bigger issue is that people deserve to be healthy.”
The Network says its work is non-partisan, but Borders more than once laid the blame for not expanding Medicaid in South Carolina on Gov. Nikki Haley. But just because that might point logical fingers toward the box for Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Haley’s Democratic opponent in next week’s vote, Borders said he’s not a 100 percent fan of the senator, either.
Delores Rozier, a lone AME political activist at the church when the Road Show arrived, said she was there to conduct a phone bank urging people to vote, but not backing any particular issue.
Rozier said she personally supports healthcare expansion because of the experience she had in getting a kidney for a sister who would have died without it.
Rozier said Bethel Church didn’t learn of the Road Show’s stop at its doorstep until five days ago. That’s just not enough time to get the word out and gather people to hear the message, she said.
Horry County Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Furlong, who came to the church when called by Rozier, said the lack of attendance shows how hard it can be for Democrats and others to get an audience.
“I can sympathize with the challenge of building a crowd for any event,” she said.
But even she said she didn’t hear about the event until Monday. She said she’s on the Progressive Network’s email list, but she didn’t recall any advance publicity about the Road Show in her inbox.
She said the Network is non-partisan, but added, “The focus in this particular issue meshes with Democrats.”
She said there are problems trying to get the people the group wants to reach to a weekday event, as many work two or three jobs and those who don’t are stuck at home with no transportation.
Borders said the Network has aimed its Road Show primarily for the 10 S.C. counties that he said each have more than 10,000 residents who would have gotten healthcare through the Medicaid expansion.
Besides the Road Show, he said there has been some door-to-door canvassing on the Medicaid expansion issue in the state’s most densely-populated areas and there will be a mailing to people who voted in the 2012 election but not in 2010. The hope in the latter is that it will draw recipient’s attention to the importance in voting in a non-presidential year.
“We can’t have healthy communities,” Borders said, “if we don’t have healthy people.”