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Crawford: Frustrations led to flippant comment

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm •  Published: March 14, 2013

"Obama is black and lives in the White House. I think he was stating the obvious," said Rutherford, D-Columbia. But Republicans might not like it, he said, since "it's exposing what you're doing."

"Unfortunately, he voted against it, but his vote would not have changed a thing," Rutherford said.

Crawford said he had no problems with voting down the Democrats' proposals, largely because he believes finding a long-term solution for covering more poor adults should be handled in a separate measure, not in the budget, which is a one-year law.

He said his frustration with his Republican colleagues was their "no, no, no" attitude, adopting Haley's stance of refusal without seeking alternatives.

His fellow Republicans say that's not true.

They point to initiatives in the budget intended to improve health while lowering costs. The programs, funded through savings realized over the last year, are intended to increase access to health care in rural areas, as well as steer people away from hospital emergency rooms statewide and toward primary care in free or low-cost health clinics.

"What we did was say, 'We need to look at ways to improve Medicaid and bring down the costs,'" said Rep. Murrell Smith, whose subcommittee writes the health care budget.

Medicaid is the fastest growing section of the budget. The current system is projected to cost an additional $2.4 billion in state revenue through 2020.

"We've got a system now we can't control," said Smith, R-Sumter. "We came up with options to control the cost and try to strengthen safety nets for those who don't have insurance."

During floor debate, Democrats gave Republicans credit for the initiatives, but said they're no substitute for extending coverage to hundreds of thousands of poor adults.

Crawford said he intends to file a bill next month that would put the budget initiatives into state law and explore other ways to provide health insurance to those who get de facto coverage through hospital ERs.

Medicaid director Tony Keck said he doesn't need a separate law to enact the initiatives.

"They're not authorizing one-time money. They're directing the department to go ahead and implement a series of strategies," Keck said, saying the savings will continue to fund them. "We can continue to do that without legislative action."