Affordable Care Act

SC Democrat files bill to ‘lessen the burden’ of Obamacare

abeam@thestate.comDecember 4, 2013 

Bakari Sellers

COLUMBIA, SC Like lots of other S.C. lawmakers, state Rep. Bakari Sellers has filed a bill that – if passed – would attempt to negate a portion of Obamacare in the Palmetto State.

The difference is Sellers is a Democrat, and he is running for statewide office.

Sellers has filed legislation in the state House of Representatives that would offer a state tax credit to offset one of the new taxes associated with the federal Affordable Care Act. In a news release, the Bamberg Democrat – who is running for lieutenant governor – said his proposal would “lessen the burden of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).”

Sellers’ bill, H.4365, would establish a tax credit to offset a 2.3 percent federal tax on medical devices – a tax that figured prominently during the debate to end the federal government shutdown in October. The tax is applied to gross sales of medical devices, making it difficult to offer a tax credit for it. So Sellers’ bill would offer a tax credit based on the fee that device makers pay to the Food and Drug Administration.

Sellers’ bill is similar to a Republican-backed bill, H.3101, that would offer companies a tax deduction to offset any penalties that they have to pay for not providing health insurance to all of their employees, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

But while H.3101 has been called a “nullification” bill, Sellers said his bill is anything but that.

“Let’s be honest, I have voted for and will continue to vote for expanding Medicaid, covering individuals with pre-existing conditions, allowing people to stay on their parents’ insurance,” Sellers said, citing several other provisions of Obamacare. “There are great aspects of the Affordable Care Act. But there are still some aspects I’m not too comfortable with. ...

“I’m trying to create jobs in South Carolina,” said Sellers, who thus far is the only Democrat running for lieutenant governor in 2014. “That’s what this is about. This is about economic development, nothing more than that.”

Sellers said he will “aggressively” push his bill when lawmakers return to Columbia in January, but it is unclear if he will have the support of legislative Republicans, who control the GOP-majority House’s agenda.

State Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, the primary sponsor of H.3101, said he had not seen Sellers’ bill but called it “encouraging.”

“I’ve been surprised all along that the Democrats were not one of our biggest supporters on this,” Chumley said. “They have children and grandchildren too, just like Republicans do. And they are going to be faced with the burden of this bill.”

Sellers’ bill has the support of the S.C. Biotech Industry Organization. Wayne Roper, the group’s president, said the new medical-device tax is “killing jobs and the ability to innovate.”

“You do not have to be against the Affordable Care Act to see that this one provision needs fixing,” he said.

State Republican Party chairman Matt Moore dismissed Sellers’ bill as a “classic political ploy.” Sellers, Moore said, is “pandering and running from the president.”

But Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election campaign seized on Sellers’ bill as an example of Democrats admitting “Obamacare is squeezing South Carolina businesses.” The Haley campaign called on state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, to admit the same.

Attempts to reach Sheheen’s campaign were unsuccessful.

Sheheen, like Sellers, has said he supports expanding South Carolina’s Medicaid program to provide more health insurance to poor people, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. A poll conducted by Winthrop University earlier this year found that slightly more than half of South Carolinians surveyed – 50.8 percent – agreed with Sheheen on that issue.

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