Wednesday, February 8, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

Last week was a lot of hurry up and wait as we plow through the preliminaries before the rough and tumble of budget talks. My previous report on Health and Human Services and Director Tony Keck’s presentation before my Ways and Means subcommittee was an example of how state and national trends are playing out in South Carolina. The projected rise in overall health care costs nationwide is driving a serious effort to employ technology to keep those costs from overwhelming budgets from households all the way to Medicare and Medicaid.

Beaufort County is at the forefront of these cost saving efforts. There is CareCore, of course. It is a state-of-the-art medical service allocation system. There is also an outfit on Hilton Head Island that uses advanced communications technology and focuses on a few common illnesses, such as ear infections. They save countless dollars in emergency room visits by having a qualified nurse taking care of problems over the phone. There are several similar protocols in service locally that are having great success by helping to increase utilization of expensive medical equipment by scheduling patients more efficiently. Wait times go down and utilization goes up.

Also, the combination of a desirable quality of life for service providers and an older, relatively affluent population results in more doctors wanting to relocate here. For example, a good friend of ours, Dr. David Rowe, recently moved down from Tennessee to manage the Pain Center at the Okatie Outpatient Center. As we become more known for our excellent healthcare facilities and outstanding doctors, that reputation serves to attract larger numbers of seniors and retirees to our area. That virtuous cycle tends to build on itself with a resultant increase in medical related jobs coming to Beaufort County.

One of my legislative goals for this session is to work with my friend Murrell Smith (R-Sumter), along with HHS Director Tony Keck, to see if we can reduce the regulatory impediments so that even more of the cutting edge medical industry locates in our state, and particularly in our part of the Lowcountry. High quality personnel staffing innovative medical facilities, using the best record keeping technology, equals better care at lower cost. It also creates high paying jobs and a much enhanced quality of life for residents and visitors.

Finally, I have sad news to report. Keith Marsh, the son of Chris and Barbara Marsh, passed away unexpectedly last week. Mary and I hold these good people in our prayers. As parents, we feel the anxiety of our nearly grown children making their way in the world and we are acutely aware of our inability to always be there to protect them from harm. Those wishing to may make a donation in Keith’s name at Family Promise of Beaufort County (

Most folks know that Dr. Chris Marsh is a mainstay of the regional environmental community. As executive director of the Lowcountry Institute, located at Spring Island, Chris has worked tirelessly to increase our understanding of the natural features that make our part of the world so special. In fact, Chris Marsh is my primary advisor on all things having to do with water quality and habitat preservation as it relates to the state’s role in preserving our natural treasures.

Next week, I’ll begin my budget commentary, as well as give you an update on new additions to the Promenade.