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And Here We Thought Gov. Haley Was Acting In Good Faith

From The Post & Courier:

Haley dictated panel finding

Outcome ordered before health committee met

By Renee “Little Girl” Dudley

rdudley@postandcourier.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gov. Nikki Haley dictated the conclusions of a committee charged with deciding how the state should implement federal health care reform before the group ever held its first meeting, public documents show.

Now, some of those involved in the dozens of meetings are calling the entire planning process a sham that wasted their time and part of a $1 million federal grant.

In a March 31 email thread that included Haley, her top advisers and the committee member who eventually wrote the report, Haley wrote, “The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange,” which is eventually what happened.

A central part of the federal health care overhaul, an exchange is a marketplace where various insurance plans eventually will be sold.

The emails were released to the newspaper Friday afternoon in response to a Nov. 16 public records request to the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The newspaper had made a nearly identical request of the governor’s office in May, but the office did not include the emails in its response.

The documents show a first-term Republican administration focused on public perception of its handling of the Democratic health care reform law. They also reveal the tight control Haley and her top aides exercise over other state agencies, requiring media inquiries to various state departments to pass through the governor’s office for inspection.

“Oh my God, we just threw $1 million away here,” said Frank Knapp, who participated in the meetings as president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “This confirms this whole thing was an effort to justify the million-dollar grant, but the reality is they had no intention of even exploring whether the state should establish an exchange — which is exactly what the grant called for.” Continue reading

Repeal Benefits Blue Cross Blue Shield

From The Post and Courier:

By Renee Dudley–Sunday, July 3, 2011

In 2006, the South Carolina Legislature repealed a decades-old insurance code, stripping the state’s authority to regulate discounting in contracts between hospitals and insurers.

The deletion allowed the state’s biggest health insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, to negotiate contracts that could cripple its competitors and raise costs for consumers. And Blue Cross was among the special-interest groups lobbying for the repeal, according to a legislator who requested it.

Although the state apparently had not enforced that section of the law, the repeal stripped regulators of authority to step in if it became necessary to regulate anticompetitive activities.

The code appears to have forbidden types of “most-favored-nation” contracts with hospitals and doctors, which some economists said have played a significant role in driving up health care costs in South Carolina. Continue reading

Opinion: One Year On, Health Care Reform Helping S.C.

From The State:

By SUE BERKOWITZ and FRANK KNAPP JR. – Guest Columnists

One year ago, we were warned that national health-care reform would impose new taxes, fees and mandates on small businesses, increasing their health-insurance costs. Under this financial pressure, there would be more uninsured due to massive worker layoffs and small-business failures.

Today the Affordable Care Act turns one year old, and small businesses are now realizing that there are not now nor will there be insurance mandates, new taxes or fees for businesses with 50 or fewer employees (97 percent of all S.C. businesses). The vast majority of the larger businesses (97 percent) already offer insurance.

Insurance companies nationwide are reporting dramatic increases in small businesses offering health insurance to employees because the law provides health-insurance tax credits for companies with fewer than 25 workers (88 percent of S.C. businesses). Economic reports show that most of the job growth in the country this year is coming from small and medium-size businesses, and a recent survey indicates that small businesses plan to add nearly 3.8 million jobs in 2011. Bottom line: There is no negative impact on small-business growth.

But the good news isn’t just for small businesses. The ACA is helping children, adults and seniors too.

Continue reading

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