The Buzz

January 23, 2014

POLITICS: Who's going to pay for the $83 million shortfall in the state health plan?

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to thebuzz@thestate.com.

The state health plan, which covers almost 10 percent of the South Carolina’s population, needs an extra $83 million to keep pace with the rising costs.

So who's going to pay it?

The State's Adam Beam with a little history lesson :

Two years ago, state lawmakers voted to pay for 100 percent of the increase, only to be overruled by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and the State Budget and Control Board. But state workers and retirees sued and won.

Last year, state lawmakers again voted to pay for 100 percent of the increase. But, to soften the blow to taxpayers, they made state workers pay more to go see a doctor by increasing their co-pays.

This year, Haley — who is running for re-election — wants to increase co-pays again. But taxpayers would pay 100 percent of the premium increase, or $57 million.

“We’ve been consistent that the employee and employer should split the rising cost of employee health care,” said Christian Soura, Haley’s deputy chief of staff for budget and policy.

It's probably no surprise that lawmakers have not made up their minds yet.

“I don’t like the choices,” said state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, chairman of the House budget subcommittee that oversees the state health plan. “It is very difficult to balance picking up the added expense of health care when (state workers) also want pay increases.”

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