Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is calling for an investigation into whether Gov. Nikki Haley misused a federal health care reform grant by dictating the recommendations of an independent panel that used the funds to develop a report on how to keep South Carolina out of the exchange system. Lynn Bailey, an independent health economist in Columbia who participated in the committee discussions, referred to Haley’s research committee as kabuki theater.
You might recall Governor Haley’s fight against Obamacares. She is so determined to keep the healthcare exchange system out of South Carolina that she used federal funds set aside to conduct research and planning to build an exchange to develop a report that, surprise- surprise, confirmed Haley’s dictation of what the committee should find; namely, how to keep South Carolina out of the exchange.
The Post and Courier reports that Senator Harkin cited an earlier report from their paper in his letter to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
The newspaper reported this month that Haley ordered a health panel’s findings in March, before the group met for the first time. The 12-member group is nonpartisan but dominated by Haley appointees.
The Health Planning Committee’s eventual report mirrored Haley’s directive in a March email that “the whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange.”
A central part of the federal health care overhaul, insurance exchanges are the state- or federally-established marketplaces where health coverage will be sold to individuals and small-business employees beginning in 2014.
States that decline to set up their own exchanges are subject to federally run ones.
Earlier on December 14, the Post and Courier reported that Governor Haley dictated the findings of the committee before they ever held their first meeting, according to public records.
Now, some of those involved in the dozens of meetings are calling the entire planning process a sham that wasted their time and part of a $1 million federal grant…
The documents show a first-term Republican administration focused on public perception of its handling of the Democratic health care reform law. They also reveal the tight control Haley and her top aides exercise over other state agencies, requiring media inquiries to various state departments to pass through the governor’s office for inspection.
The paper had originally made the records request that led to this revelation of the Governor’s office but the Governor’s office left the emails out of their response. The paper then made the same request of S.C. Department of Health and Human Services; that response included the emails that revealed Haley’s directive for the committee.
The emails further show the Governor’s office coordinating to write an op-ed and submit it to someone outside of the administration to run as their own. Trey Walker, formerly Haley’s deputy chief of staff, wrote, “I am confident I could get a business group or legislator to submit op-ed.” So much for transparency.
Ironically, in Haley’s apparent refusal to use taxpayer money as directed, “state’s rights” champion Governor Haley may have set her state up to cede power to the federal government.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Keith Maley said in a statement responding to the governor’s possible misuse of funds: “Planning grants provide states with resources to conduct the research and planning needed to build an exchange. South Carolina used these resources to develop a report. If South Carolina would rather cede its authority to the federal government, South Carolinians will be able to access a federally facilitated exchange.”
Calculating to the end of November, the Haley administration had spent 109,000 dollars of the 1 million dollar grant confirming the Governor’s directive.
No matter where we look these days, we find faux conservatives wasting taxpayer money in order to serve their corporate agenda at the expense of their constituents. That they do this in the name of serving Jesus Christ and fiscal conservatism only highlights the discrepancies between their alleged values and their actions. Governor Haley’s office thought they could escape accountability by simply not complying fully with a records request.
This is about more than Haley’s alleged misuse of funds; Haley allowed her political agenda to override the purpose of the grant money, and in doing so, made a unilateral decision for purely political motives to keep all South Carolinians from having access to the healthcare exchange system. Given that South Carolina is one of the most poverty-stricken states in the union, Governor Haley has some explaining to do.
Nikki Haley wasted federal money in Kabuki theater pretending to care about the welfare of South Carolinians, when in reality she had a political agenda the entire time. As a Tea Party candidate who talked a big game about how we were taxed enough already, she sure didn’t mind wasting our money for her dog and pony show. And to top it off, Haley ducked from transparency.