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SC lawmakers expected to tackle Medicaid expansion

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

South Carolina is one of 23 states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid to roughly 250,000 people living below the poverty line. On the cusp of the 2014 legislative session, lawmakers remain split about that decision, whether it will save the state money or ultimately cost some their lives.

Expanding Medicaid in South Carolina would initially be free-paid for by the federal government for three years. After that, it's a 90-10 split between the state and the feds, too high a price, some say.

"HHS estimates it's between $800 million and $1.4 billion in cost, over the next six years to the state of South Carolina," said State Rep. Murrell Smith. "You look at the budget we have in this state, and the growth we have. That's not a sustainable program we can add to this state."

But house democrats said South Carolinians are already paying for the health care needs of those left out of the expansion.

"People who show up in emergency rooms, hospitals have no choice but to pass those costs along to paying patients," said State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter.

With a bill to nullify the Affordable Care Act undergoing revisions and set to be debated next week, many republican lawmakers expressed their concern about not expanding the program.

"Even Republican governors have said, 'how can I let these people go without health care', and I look forward to the day that happens in South Carolina too," said State Sen. Joel Lourie.

The cost of that expansion will be debated and weighed one again, this time perhaps with some resolution, starting next week.

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