Gov. Nikki Haley took aim today at hospitals and lawmakers for fighting a proposal that would allow the state's health-care agency to reduce what it pays doctors and hospitals to treat the poor and disabled.
Haley criticized unnamed hospital "special interests" for opposing cuts to the rates paid for Medicaid patients. Instead of a rate cut, hospitals have proposed increasing the taxes that they pay the state – now $264 million. But Haley, a former hospital fund-raising executive, said hospitals would just pass that cost along to patients.
"They are totally pulling the wool over people's eyes," Haley said. "Look at how hard the hospitals are fighting (the rate reduction)."
Hospitals and the S.C. Chamber of Commerce have argued rate cuts also would be passed along to consumers, forcing health-care providers to charge higher prices to patients with private insurance, causing those insurers to raise their premiums.
Haley also criticized lawmakers who so far have declined to allow the state’s health agency to cut pay to doctors and hospitals. Department of Health and Human Services director Tony Keck said the ability to cut those rates is key to his deficit-ridden agency.
South Carolina is the only state where its Legislature has forbidden its Medicaid agency from cutting rates for doctors and hospitals.
“That holds Tony's hands," Haley said, adding, “We are standing here letting it happen."
The Department of Health and Human Services is facing a $227.8 million deficit this year, and is asking for $660 million in additional money to maintain its service in the budget year that starts July 1.
Haley, who took office a month ago, said she asked lawmakers to request a Legislative Audit Council review of how that deficit was run up. An audit would help the agency head off similar problems in the future, Keck said, and possibly identify new ways to save money.