SC prepares for more Medicaid patients despite refusal to expand

Even though South Carolina rejected healthcare reform's Medicaid expansion, the Palmetto State's Medicaid agency still expects a large influx of new patients, The State reports.

As new patients sign up for online health insurance exchanges, state Medicaid offices anticipate tens of thousands of people will sign up for Medicaid upon learning of their eligibility for the first time after entering their information into the exchanges' online calculator. In South Carolina, for instance, as many as 240,000 people are eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled, according to The State. South Carolina expects about two-thirds of them to enroll in the program rather than pay a fine for having no health insurance, according to the article.

Some parents also will likely learn that, although they are not eligible for Medicaid, their children are entitled to coverage, according to The State. Under South Carolina's program, children are eligible for coverage if their families make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. In recent years, the article states, South Carolina has done outreach to try to get more eligible children on the rolls, with the number increasing by more than 100,000 between 2010 and 2012.

The state Department of Health & Human Services has provided funding for about 22 new call center positions, and will premiere a new online application system today, according to The State.

"At the end of the day, we're all here to serve the citizens of South Carolina even if we may have differences about health care reform and its implications," HHS deputy director John Supra told The State. When South Carolinians "need to get to the right place, it's our responsibility to route them there."

This week, South Carolina also will introduce Healthy Outcomes, a new program targeting uninsured people who frequently use emergency rooms. The program aims to reduce the number of heavy ER users and increase their access to primary care. Each hospital in the state will be assigned a number of uninsured patients to target, ranging from 50 to 750. The state program also will have to contend with forthcoming cuts in disproportionate share payments, as well as cuts to Medicaid payments to providers, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's The State's article
- here's the Post and Courier article