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With no insurance and deep medical debt, South Carolina voters swayed by health…

by ace
With no insurance and deep medical debt, South Carolina voters swayed by health...

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ORANGEBURG, S.C. – After years of hard work, Ashley Myers has finally realized her dream of owning a women's fashion store and a beauty salon across the street from each other in this predominantly black little town. But how the costs of your health care plan have increased a year ago, she could only keep one store open.

Today, as the owner and sole employee of the combined beauty and fashion store, she pays $ 800 a month for her insurance premiums, but said it really only helps in dire circumstances. Otherwise, she pays so much out of pocket that she feels as good as her uninsured brother – he only sees a doctor in the emergency room, where he accumulates huge medical bills.

"I try to be smart when I go to the doctor and make sure I have the money, or they take it out of my business," said Myers, 35.

For many in this city of 13,000, health care and insurance are the main ahead of Saturday's Democratic primary, when South Carolina voters are likely to weigh the proposed medical plans by the different presidential candidates. The more radical "Medicare for All" idea is starting to attract people like Myers, worried about their own pockets or worried about family and friends who are not insured.

"I went to the doctor yesterday for a check-up and had to pay $ 100 just to be seen, and I still have to pay for the labs," said Myers behind the counter, saying he plans to vote for Senator Bernie. Sanders, I-Vt., On Saturday, because he supports Medicare for All. "When I log in, it's always at least $ 350, and it's a lot for my kids. At any given time, it's like & # 39; am I paying for this? & # 39; "

Health care is deeply personal to many in South Carolina, which has the second highest rate of medical debt in the country, at 32.8%, according to 2017 study by the Urban Institute. More research by the public policy think tank it found that the median medical debt in collections from state residents is $ 787.

# embed-20200225-iframe of south carolina's medical debt {width: 1px; min-width: 100%}

Jaime Harrison, the Democratic candidate who seems prepared to give Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., The most difficult challenge of his career in the Senate, said health care is the number 1 issue for voters in the state. Graham introduced legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and weaken the Medicaid program in 2017, and Harrison hopes to beat it, meeting his state's insurance coverage needs.

It is an issue in South Carolina that extends down the corridor, Harrison said.

"They are ordinary people," explained Harrison. "They are not Democrats and Republicans, they are not black or white – they are all. We have to find out. There is an important federal role in this process. We need to find out in a way that is non-partisan."

Many of the state's health problems can be traced back to this political dispute.

O uninsured rate declined sharplyin the state after the approval of the ACA in 2010. Reaching 20% ​​in 2008, the number dropped to 11% in 2016.

But the Trump administration has stopped grant payments to the program, weakened the individual mandate and reduced advertising funding and application periods. In 2018, the uninsured rate rose again to 13%.

That rate has also not dropped as far as it could. South Carolina refused to expand Medicaid, which means it did not receive $ 10.5 billion in federal funding that would provide health care coverage to nearly 250,000 low-income people. This has a huge effect on communities of color, which represent more than a third of the state's population and whose uninsured rate is 16%.

Together with 13 other states, South Carolina rejected Medicaid's expansion because lawmakers thought it was fiscally irresponsible to pay 10% of the program, needed to receive funding.

Democrats say there is no way to go about getting those federal dollars. The conservative state legislature and the republican governor are vehemently against the program. South Carolinians also do not have the option to express their views on the matter via voting initiative, as voters in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska, who chose to expand Medicaid.

"If they are looking at this with some kind of objective common sense, they cannot say that it is working well," Democratic state senator Brad Hutto said of the state's Republicans. "It is ideologically a very conservative state. We are always the last to do it. The only thing we did first was to shoot Fort Sumter, otherwise, we wait for everyone else."

This political reality has led some to argue that South Carolina's only hope of expanding the option of public health care is through the federal government. This means that the 2020 presidential election could be the difference for a Democratic constituency in South Carolina that has more minorities and low-income people than its Republican counterpart.

That's what Wendell Potter, a former health executive who became a Medicare for All lawyer, argues. He and his advocacy group spent about six figures in the state trying to educate voters about the health legislation that is driving campaigns. presidential candidates of Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Potter's group hired canvassers, bringing some from outside the state, to reach five counties in South Carolina, with large black populations, to share more information about Medicare for All.

As the group focused its attention on the black community, it seems apparent that Potter was also openly attacking former Vice President Joe Biden's firewall, which hampered his presidential prospects in the black community and in South Carolina, but remains opposed to Medicare for everyone. .

Potter said Biden was very attached to ACA, ignoring the need for structural changes in the healthcare industry.

"It was very good," Potter told ACA's NBC News. "But it is built on a foundation that is not sustainable, and that is the foundation of for-profit insurance companies that are really talking about our health care system. As long as you have this in place, we will not be able to progress in reducing the health care costs and getting people on health plans that are really worth something ".

The group plans to run similar campaigns in the states after Super Tuesday and aims to specifically target Wisconsin – a state that has not expanded Medicaid and is hosting the Democratic National Convention later this year.

But some Democrats have said that Potter and Medicare for All candidates are politically naive, especially in a state with a strong conservative bias like South Carolina.

Joel Laurie, a former Democratic state senator who now works in the health insurance industry, called Medicare for All a "dream" that would exhaust only the political capital needed to help people in South Carolina without health insurance.

Meanwhile, Biden's plan was an attractive option, because Laurie said she could attract support beyond progressive Democrats and solve South Carolina's health problem at the federal level bypassing the state government.

"Joe Biden's plan is the only one that takes a pragmatic approach to closing the gap," said Laurie. "It cannot force the expansion of Medicaid, but it can create a federal option for Medicare. That would be a huge victory for people."

The other concern that has been reiterated by the Democratic establishment is that progressive policies like Medicare for All would hurt candidates running for elected office in more conservative areas of the country, such as South Carolina.

Harrison's challenge to Graham here often appears in this conversation, as does Representative Joe Cunningham, who won a seat on the House representing the Charleston area and was open about his opposition to Sanders and socialism.

Harrison, who did not endorse any presidential candidate, took a practical stance.

"People are retreating to the camps, and I’m trying to bring unified people to a camp. We need health care for everyone, we need to ensure that our health care isn’t closed to people, and we need to ensure that these health conditions care deserts don't exist, "he said, adding that he was open to talks about the best way to get there.

Still, for many southern Carolinians, better health care coverage cannot come soon.

Elizabeth Jones, 69, suffered a stroke without insurance and went bankrupt. While waiting for Warren and John Legend to take the stage at South Carolina State University on Wednesday, she said that even with Medicare coverage now, she often finds herself choosing between paying for her prescriptions and paying her electricity bill.

"People are dying here and many others are suffering," she said, adjusting herself in the wheelchair. "This has to be fixed."

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