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By Sue Berkowitz

While South Carolina is often a state cited for being first on list for outcomes that are bad and last in those that are good, we have some surprisingly positive news. The South Carolina Medicaid director Tony Keck, in his 2012-13 budget request to Gov. Haley, asked for an additional $35 million in order to enroll another 70,000 children in Medicaid. Doing so would cut the number of kids without access to affordable health care in South Carolina almost by half. These children are already eligible for the program.

This request is simply attempting to fund implementation of the 2007 expansion of children's coverage to 200% of the federal poverty level. The state would add these children through streamlining the process families must endure to reach the holy grail of healthcare coverage.  The current disjointed, time-consuming and expensive process should have been changed years ago , but there were those at the Medicaid agency that did not want to remove the barriers to coverage for fear that too many children would sign up for the health care coverage that they were qualified to receive.   This new philosophy of making government programs more efficient is refreshing.  By removing unnecessary administrative roadblocks to coverage, we will go a long way toward fulfilling the commitment our state made to its children in 2007.  This request builds on the recent changes to our state's Medicaid program that now allows for express lane re-certification.

Should the agency be successful in getting its request funded, not only would South Carolina be doing right by many more of our children, it would enable us to draw down roughly $140 million in matching Medicaid funds. Economists calculate that those out-of-state dollars would translate into an additional $171,850,000 in business activity and 1,661 jobs for our state. Also, we would qualify for a $25 million incentive bonus. With one in five South Carolinians relying on Medicaid and joblessness still soaring, those dollars are badly needed.

And how wonderful it would be for the state's economy if the parents of those 70,000 children could miss only half a day's work, taking their kids to a doctor via Medicaid, instead of staying home a week or so to look after sick children?

This would be money well spent as it would leverage a far greater investment in our state, our businesses our workforce and, most importantly, our children.

Cross posted from the Say Ahhh! blog

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