statehouseA new AARP survey of 800 South Carolina residents 45+ shows that almost 70 percent feel that when compared to other government programs, Medicaid is very to extremely important.   The report also details that 57 percent of 45 to 64 year-olds surveyed disagree with Gov. Nikki Haley’s refusal to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid in South Carolina.

The report released today in Columbia, shows 54 percent of total respondents backing the expansion of South Carolina’s Medicaid program to provide health coverage for at least 329,000 uninsured state residents. Medicaid is a joint federal-state government program designed to provide limited health coverage to the poor. Until now, each state could set its own income level for eligibility and the states were required to match federal funds – in South Carolina on a 70/30 basis federal to state.

“Expanding Medicaid will help our state’s workers who’ve lost their jobs or are struggling in jobs without health benefits,” said Teresa Arnold, AARP SC legislative director.  “For older workers hit hardest by the recession and out of the workforce longer than younger workers, this is especially important.” She added “Expanding Medicaid will give people without insurance access to preventive care that can reduce the need for expensive emergency room care, and ease emergency room overcrowding.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, all states will have the same income eligibility for Medicaid: 138% of the federal poverty level, up to $15,000 income for an individual and $32,000 for a family of four. To fund this, the federal government has allocated funds to each state to pay 100 percent of the expansion cost for the first few years, dropping to 90 percent by 2020.

“Hard working South Carolinians need the security of affordable health care,” said Arnold.  This sentiment is shared by a coalition of organizations and business groups who have formed the Accept ME SC coalition to advocate for Medicaid expansion in South Carolina.

Currently, Governors in twenty-five states, including Florida and New Jersey, are pursuing Federal funding for their state Medicaid program.

The AARP telephone survey, conducted February 13-21, by RDD Field Services, recorded that 90 percent of the respondents had some type of health care coverage and 92 percent have a positive voting behavior.  Political views split at 43 percent conservative; 31 percent moderate, 8 percent liberal and 19 percent other.

The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.5.

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