Monday, December 7, 2009

Car insurance is mandatory but health care is not

Bluffton Today

It looked like we got a little of what Miss Babbie always used to keep the rain off her Bluffton Village Festival. For whatever reason, the rain magically stopped just in time for the Bluffton Christmas Parade last Saturday. The parade route was lined with thousands of Bluffton folks and wannabe Bluffton folks, and the event, as always, more than met expectations.

There was, however, something of a mystery in that my pal Steve Tilton and some of our Rotary compatriots were organized into a clean-up crew following the politicians in the parade lineup. I seem to remember them behind the horses in years past. What could that be about?

Much of last week I was at the annual meeting of a group of medical insurance providers trying to get some visibility on the future of healthcare and health insurance. They shared with me some interesting facts about the breakdown of who is insured and who is uninsured in our state, and what that might imply should we end up with a government mandate for health insurance. I was able to share with them some of your stories of frustration in dealing with both private and government insurers. As with many service providers, the issue of effective communication is a constant challenge for the insurance industry.

According to the insurance group analysis, around 20 percent of South Carolinians are without health insurance. Interestingly, we have mandatory car insurance but 15-20 percent of South Carolinians are uninsured. This will be a conundrum regardless of what comes out of Washington next year.

As a member of Ways and Means, I am very interested in how the new legislation is going to affect our state Medicaid obligation. Right now it looks like the feds will contribute to the funding mandate. However, the funding likely will sunset while the obligation continues. Consequently, we do not have good visibility on our healthcare budget beyond 2 or 3 years, at best.

The cigarette tax is the obvious revenue stream to help fund Medicaid and related items, but many of my colleagues want to backfill the budget with these dollars. 90 percent of Beaufort County voters want a cigarette tax, but only for healthcare support. The politics of this is tricky, but with leadership support, we must get it done and properly allocated. I am already on it.

I want to send a special Christmas hello to Bluffton High School graduate Jennifer Hays. Jennifer is from Prichardville and recently completed Marine Corps basic training and is headed to Camp Lejeune. If you see Jennifer, let her know how proud we are of her. She is one of the bright stars of our local youth.

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. December 7, 1941 was the 9-11 of our parents and grandparents. All the horror and anguish we felt watching the towers fall is what they felt hearing the radio accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Two hideous acts bind us across the generations and speak to the evolution of the threats we as a nation face. To Jennifer Hayes and all those who volunteer to face down and vanquish those perils, we owe more than we can ever hope to repay.