Issue Position: Improving SC's Quality of Life
We strive as an Administration to make South Carolina a better place to live. The quality of life offered by this state - the state's unique look and feel - is essential in differentiating South Carolina from other economies around the nation and globe. It's for that reason that we successfully urged the Legislature to pass the Priority Investment Act, a bill (now a law) requiring local governments to communicate with one another when investing in infrastructure like roads, water lines, and sewer lines - thus helping to reduce sprawl and use tax dollars on infrastructure more wisely.
We were the second state in the nation to offer Health Savings Accounts for state employees and the first state chosen to institute market-based reforms to Medicaid - a process begun by our own Department of Health and Human Services.
Our concern with quality of life informs our thinking on the environment, too - we're intent on exercising good stewardship of our natural heritage. We successfully advocated a Conservation Bank being funded for the first time. The Bank takes an active role in protecting green ways, open space, wetlands, historical properties, and other significant areas without infringing on property rights. In its first three years, the Bank protected over 107,000 acres of some of South Carolina's most important lands with $60 million - or about $562 per acre.
In addition, we're committed to ensuring that both Daniel Island and Port Royal are developed in ways that are both environmentally sound and good for their communities. We're also determined to move forward on efforts to find market-based ways of meeting the challenges posed by climate change. We think the states have a vital role to play in the coming debate over whether and to what extent the federal government dictates regulatory practices on environmental issues.
Health and Fitness
Health care encompasses more than a third of the entire state budget and greatly impacts the quality of life in South Carolina. Dealing with the rising cost of health care is one of the biggest challenges we face.
The Past Year
We had several successes in the last year that will have a positive effect on the health of our citizens.
If we improve the quality of our diet and exercise, we will get better results in the form of lower rates of chronic diseases. With that in mind, we launched the Healthy South Carolina Challenge, inviting counties across the state to engage in friendly competition on improving their physical activity rates, improving their body-mass index, and getting more people to quit smoking. The citizens of Darlington County won a trip to the Governor's Mansion for showing the most overall improvement, but the real winners were the citizens of the state who took advantage of the opportunity to improve their health.
Working with the administration, the Department of Health and Human Services put together our "South Carolina Healthy Connections" Medicaid transformation plan that was used as one of the models for Congress' historic Health Opportunity Accounts provision in the Deficit Reduction Act.
To help bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Medicaid patients, DHHS is combining its negotiating power with ten other states in a National Medicaid Pooling Initiative. Replacing the current one-state only contracts with NMPI contracts will save an estimated additional $1.4 million in general fund dollars with no change in the state's current Preferred Drug List.
While these successes are a step in the right direction, several challenges remain. South Carolina currently spends too little attention to investing in our health on the front end through prevention efforts, which leads to more health care dollars being spent on expensive trips to the emergency room and institutional care on the back end. We also scatter scarce Medicaid dollars over too many state agencies. Health care funding is a finite resource; money wasted on unnecessary administrative burdens or inefficient care is money taken away from important services for other citizens. We can and must do better.