The Buzz

ELECTION 2014: Bakari Sellers files bill 'lessening burden of Obamacare'

State Rep. Bakari Sellers has filed a bill that attempts to negate a portion of Obamacare in South Carolina, just like lots of other state lawmakers have done.

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 some new taxes associated with the federal Affordable Care Act. In a news release, Sellers said the bill would “lessen the burden of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).”

Seller’s bill, H.4365, attempts to offset a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices – a tax featured prominently during the debate to end the federal government shutdown in October. The medical devise tax is applied to the gross sales of medical devices, making it difficult to offer a tax credit for it. So Sellers’ bill offers a tax credit based on the fee device makers pay to the Food and Drug Administration. In a news release, Sellers said the bill would “lessen the burden of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).”

It is similar to a Republican-basked bill, H.3101, that would offer companies a tax deduction to offset penalties for not providing health insurance to all of their employees.

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

“Let’s be honest, I have voted for and will continue to vote for expanding Medicaid, covering individuals with preexisting conditions, allowing people to stay on their parents insurance,” said Sellers, who is running for lieutenant governor. “There are great aspects of the Affordable Care Act, but there are still some aspects I’m not too comfortable with. This was just one way for me to not really weigh heavily in that debate.”

“I’m trying to create jobs in South Carolina. That’s what this is about. This is about economic development, nothing more than that.”

Sellers said he will “aggressively” push the bill when lawmakers return to Columbia in January, but it is unclear if he will have the support of Republicans, who control the House’s agenda. State Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg and the primary sponsor of H.3101, said he had not seen Sellers’ bill but said “this is encouraging.”

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

The bill does have the support of the South Carolina Biotech Industry Organization. Wayne Roper, the group’s president, said the 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,” and said he is “pandering and running from the president.”

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

Attempts to reach Sheheen’s campaign were unsuccessful. Sheheen, like Sellers, said he supports expanding South Carolina’s Medicaid program to provide more health insurance to poor people. A poll conducted by Winthrop University earlier this year found that slightly more than half of South Carolinians – 50.8 percent – agreed with Sheheen.