No deficit approval for Medicaid, welfare, prisons

By Brandi Cummings - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina's financial oversight board has delayed taking action on more than $260 million in agency deficits that affect hundreds of thousands of the state's poor.

The Budget and Control Board Tuesday said it would take no action before January on a $228 million deficit in the Department of Health and Human Services' Medicaid program. The board also opted not to act on deficits of $29 million and more than $7 million at the Department of Social Services and the Department of Corrections.

Without the state bailout, the Medicaid agency says it will stop payments to doctors and hospitals in March. That has people who depend on the program concerned.

Nyla looks like an average five-year-old, but her life didn't start out like most. "I left home one morning and she was cruising the furniture," said Nyla's mother, Uvette Pope-Rogers. "So when I got back home that evening to see that she wasn't able to stand, we knew immediately something was wrong."

Nyla had a stroke at just eight months old, paralyzing her right side. It now limits her ability to us her right hand. Pope-Rogers says therapy is helping Nyla function. "She wasn't aware of her hand after she had the stroke," said Pope-Rogers. "After the therapy, she's using it as a helper hand."

Nyla has therapy three hours a week, which is 156 hours a year. Beginning February 1, that will change because of cuts to Medicaid.

"The families are the ones that suffer," said Dawn Darby, who runs the The Therapy Place, where special needs children get physical, occupational, and speech therapy with trained professionals.
Many of the families, like Nyla's rely on Medicaid to cover the costs. "Medicaid helps with co-payments, those extra therapies that these children need," said Darby.

The Department of Health and Human Services overseas the state's Medicaid program. Because of a projected 228 million dollar budget shortfall, the number of rehabilitative service hours are on the chopping block.

"A child would have a very hard time experiencing any benefit with that low amount of therapy," said Darby.

Rogers says Nyla's therapy can get up to $8,000 a month, a price she and her husband can't afford, even though they have private insurance. So for now, they will continue working with Nyla at home, hoping she continues to get better.

"I don't know how we would handle it," said Pope-Rogers.

That's the concern for thousands of people. The state Budget and Control Board is not expected to address the deficit until next year, because board member and state Sen. Hugh Leatherman said Gov.-elect Nikki Haley should have a chance to weigh in on the shortfalls.

Our story only addressed one of many programs that could be affected. To see all of the programs which will end in February without further action, click here.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.