Wednesday, November 9, 2011

From The House

Bluffton Today

After my recent comments regarding volunteering for the many boards and commissions that make every level of government run more effectively, we had a few folks call and indicate a willingness to serve. One of the first was my friend Chuck Stewart of Rebel Dog Cycles in Bluffton. After reviewing Chuck’s very impressive resume of civic volunteerism, I believe that with a few more good citizens like the CEO of Rebel Dog Cycles on our myriad boards and commissions, we would see a marked improvement in their overall performance. Thanks, Chuck.

I guess the thing is this: we all have the right to complain and I welcome your input whether it’s positive or negative. However, the corollary of complaint is service. If you can contribute a little time and effort, your suggestions for improvement usually carry more weight. Those suggestions are usually more informed as well. Together, we are a lot smarter than any one of us individually.

Several of the many calls we received this week were concerning the difference in Medicare and Medicaid, and why is Medicaid such a big issue now.

Simply put, Medicare is federal and Medicaid is state. Medicaid is a 46-year-old health care program for the very poor, elderly and disabled. It is means tested, jointly funded by the federal and state governments, but managed by the states. It is known as the nation’s health care program for low-income Americans, though it currently covers only certain categories of people.

In 2010, Medicaid covered about 60 million people, with around 46 million of those being low-income children and their parents. It is the largest source of health insurance for our country’s children. Medicaid also covers almost 9 million non-elderly people with disabilities, among them 4 million children with physical and mental illnesses and 8 million low-income seniors who also qualify for Medicare. The dual qualified seniors usually are much sicker and poorer than regular Medicare recipients. Medicaid helps to pay these senior’s Medicare premiums, as well as pay for long-term or nursing home care. There is also a pregnancy benefit for low-income women that extends for the duration of the pregnancy.

The reason the Medicaid financials loom so large in our budget is that with the economic downturn, the numbers of potential Medicaid recipients has escalated dramatically. It essentially is a negative multiplier of the effects of poverty in our state. We receive less revenue from all sources, but the obligations on our system are increased exponentially by this “safety net” insurance feature.

This is one of the reasons for my fixation on jobs and economic development. As we create more good jobs, fewer South Carolinians fall into the safety net, so that even modest job gains boost our bottom line by a big number since the negative multiplier is reduced. Just as one lost job can create a whole family of Medicaid recipients, one new, good job can take all those family members off the Medicaid rolls.

Next week, I will offer a preview of some of the changes likely to be made in the Medicaid landscape.

For some good news, we only have to look as far as Old Town Bluffton. A week after the success of the Arts and Seafood Festival, this weekend saw great turnouts for both the Art Walk on Friday and the Palmetto Animal League (PAL) Beer and Oyster event at the Promenade on Saturday evening. Let’s extend the streak to the Taste of Waddell celebration next Sunday from 3-7 on the bluff at the Waddell Mariculture Center. I guarantee a great time for all.