Palmetto Project


What the CBO Score Means for South Carolina

woman comforts man“There is a mean spirit rampant in our country that would have us punish our most vulnerable citizens for simply being poor, old, sick, or holding down well-paying jobs,” said Steve Skardon, Jr., executive director of Palmetto Project. “It suggests that if these people are starved long enough or allowed to be a bit sicker, they will magically find jobs or better jobs so that the rest of us don’t have to feel badly not caring about them,” he continued.

The Congressional Budget Office confirmed this week that the current Trump-Ryan plan to fix the nation’s health care system, will actually dismantle it.   Over the next ten years, it would skim $2 trillion out of health care programs and turn them into an exceedingly generous tax cut for high end taxpayers.  More than 23 million Americans would lose access to health insurance, while millions of children would no longer have access to preventative and primary care services.

The Trump-Ryan legislation would mean that at least a half-million working adults in South Carolina would be without health coverage, while nearly a half-million South Carolina children covered by Medicaid would be subject to a “prioritizing” of health treatments available to them with significantly less money available to provide them.   The costs of individual insurance plans will almost certainly go up, while those with pre-existing conditions (about half of our workforce) would be forced to buy insurance through “high risk pools” which have already proven to be too expensive for most people who need them.

For the 823,000 South Carolinians who suffer from pre-existing conditions, plans will cost more. “Letting insurance be insurance will take us right back to pre-ACA days: cheap plans with bare minimum benefits, and premium prices that will leave the elderly and sicker people with no affordable options for health insurance at all. That’s not choice, that’s stripping away someone’s chance to improve their life,” explained Shelli Quenga, Palmetto Project’s Director of Programs.

23 million people will be uninsured, estimates the CBO. The majority of the estimated reductions in coverage come from cuts to the Medicaid program, targeting the most vulnerable people in our state. Currently, 1 in 6 births are covered by Medicaid, 3 in 5 seniors in nursing homes are covered by Medicaid, 2 in 5 children are covered by Medicaid in South Carolina. Under the AHCA, states do not get the opportunity to expand Medicaid by maintaining the higher federal funding match. “Moving to a per capita caps or block grants funding structure will be disastrous. We will have to decide if our babies or our grandparents get covered,” said Quenga.

The new CBO score should confirm to Senators that the only way forward is to reject the AHCA and instead develop proposals that improve, expand and protect health care rather than take away coverage, end guaranteed Medicaid services, and put insurance companies back in charge. 

The Trump-Ryan plan:

  • Leaves millions of people without healthcare coverage
  • Offers less medical benefits
  • Leaves too many people at the mercy of insurance companies
  • Hurts seniors, children, people with disabilities, and low-income workers
  • Hurts state budgets by making devastating and permanent cuts to Medicaid.

AHCA – What’s it mean for SC?

medical provider and patientToday the U.S House of Representatives approved legislation that will bring chaos to 20% of the national economy, and cut nearly $1 trillion from existing programs that assist Americans in gaining access to affordable medical care.

Yet, none of South Carolina’s Members of Congress who voted for this legislation seem to know what the impact of the bill will be on South Carolina or how many of the state’s residents will lose health insurance.

This legislation will affect the health insurance premiums and coverage of every South Carolinian.  450,000 working South Carolinians will either lose their health coverage entirely or experience a significant downgrading in coverage coupled with an increase in premiums.  Disabled South Carolinians, along with half of the state’s children, will face similar cuts and new hardships.

Those most in jeopardy are South Carolinians with pre-existing conditions and those who earn modest wages and hold down part-time jobs to make ends meet. Nearly half of the country’s work force will face the prospect of being thrown into “high risk insurance pools” that were proven too expensive for most South Carolinians when the state tried that approach in the past.  AARP says that premiums for those in these pools could reach as high as $25,700 a year.  The bill allows insurers to jack up premiums for older workers (50-64) as much as five times what they are paying now.

The legislation would also repeal requirements that prohibit insurers from discrimination against people with histories of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV, cardiovascular disease, asthma, being over 50 or being a woman. It even allows insurers to revert back to discriminating against women who have had a baby or been raped.

No one in Washington seems to know exactly how bad the impact will be or how much it will cost, given the addition of the Upton and MacArthur amendments and the fact that the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not published its report outlining these important facts. Nor is anyone willing to say how many Americans will lose their insurance beyond the CBO’s initial figure of 24 million.

The essence of the bill is a series of tax breaks that disproportionately benefit wealthier taxpayers along with the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. The AHCA substantially decreases financial assistance for low- and middle-income workers, in ways that will cause millions to lose the insurance coverage they have had since 2014.

“Our calculations indicate that the Upton amendment would provide a whole $32.63/year boost to 823,00 South Carolinians with pre-existing conditions who will face higher costs due to pre-existing conditions,” says Steve Skardon, Palmetto Project’s Executive Director. “We’re interested in hearing how Senators Graham and Scott will respond to patients with chronic conditions like asthma, arthritis, and sickle cell, or histories of cancer or heart attack,  whose only coverage options are high-risk insurance pools that are underfunded and proven losers for the vulnerable and sick,” he added.

The AHCA includes:

  • Reductions in tax credits that make coverage affordable for millions of moderate-income families.
  • Higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs, especially for older workers.
  • Those with pre-existing conditions would be forced to pay a hefty penalty for the next year if there is a gap in coverage.
  • Health savings accounts are helpful if you have the extra money.  However, 35% of South Carolina workers are low-income, living paycheck-to-paycheck.  This option does not make healthcare more affordable or accessible to them.

Terri Marsh, 62, from Goose Creek, is very worried about her ACA coverage. She is a full-time caregiver for her grandson who has special healthcare needs and is covered by SC Healthy Connections Medicaid, and her husband, who deals with mobility challenges as a result of multiple sclerosis, and is covered by Medicare. She also has multiple chronic medical conditions that require daily medications and quarterly infusions. She is worried about her ACA coverage. Without the financial assistance offered by the ACA, she would be uninsured, leaving a bleak future for her family. Faced with deteriorating health status, it would make it more difficult for her to adequately care for her husband and grandson. There is no doubt that her husband’s MS symptoms will worsen. It’s the nature of the disease. This certainty will only increase the demand on Terri’s caregiver responsibilities. Without access to her health care providers and medications, this is a nightmare scenario for Terri’s family.

The bill does not have a CBO score which would show the impact of their policies on people’s lives and its cost. Palmetto Project is available for health insurance literacy outreach and education events across South Carolina. Consumers who have general questions can make an appointment with an enrollment specialist by calling 1-888-998-4646, or


Palmetto Project Seeking Applicants for Lowcountry Ministries Fund

March 23, 2016


Palmetto Project Seeking Grant Applications for $1.5 million from Lowcountry Ministries Fund

candle lightThe non-profit Palmetto Project announced today that community organizations serving Allendale, Hampton, Colleton, Jasper, and rural parts of lower Charleston and Beaufort counties may apply for grants from its $1.5 million Lowcountry Ministries Fund. Directions on how to apply can be found at and must be received by 3 p.m. on Friday, April 15, 2016.

According to Steve Skardon, the organization’s executive director, the Fund was created in coordination with the City of Charleston to manage the overwhelming response to the tragic shootings at Emanuel AME last summer.  “In a small way, the Fund’s 2,600 donors are hoping to see something new and helpful emerge from that dark time,” he said.  He estimated that the announcement of the grants would be made in August.

He said an advisory committee of community leaders has been formed to evaluate the applications, and that Mrs. Jennifer Pinckney, wife of the late Senator Clementa Pinckney, is consulting with the Palmetto Project on that process.

Lowcountry Ministries Fund is still accepting donations at  However, prospective donors desiring to honor the life of the late Reverend Pinckney are invited to visit the Honorable Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney Foundation at

Applicants must be tax-exempt organizations like a 501(c)(3) organization, a religious organization, or a public entity with a physical address in Allendale, Colleton, Hampton, Jasper, and rural parts of lower Charleston and Beaufort counties, and currently addressing issues of social and economic justice for residents of the same areas related to children, youth, and schools; health and access to care; economic empowerment; and food and nutrition. Applicants with other project ideas are also welcome to apply.

An informational webinar will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 31, 2016. To join the call, go to, optional dial in number: 724-707-2588, PIN: 75196. Please direct questions about applications to 843-724-7100 or

About the Palmetto Project.  Palmetto Project is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify innovative approaches to social and economic challenges facing South Carolina.  Through special partnerships with governments, businesses, civic groups, schools, and religious organizations, Palmetto Project strives to bring a fresh entrepreneurial spirit to the challenge of building successful communities.

Palmetto Project to Lead Statewide Enrollment for the ACA

SignUpSCSeptember 2, 2015


Contact: Shelli Quenga, 843-577-4122, ext. 119

 Palmetto Project to Lead Statewide Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act

South Carolina was in the top ten states for enrollment last year

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced today that non-profit Palmetto Project will repeat its role as the lead statewide Navigator for the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace over the next three years, after South Carolina ranked among the top ten states last year in signing up its eligible uninsured population. This year’s grant award is $1,123,916. The organization leads a coalition of state and community partners that provides public education and outreach, along with free in-person, online, over-the-telephone assistance, and consumer advocacy to South Carolinians in every county.

“Our numbers are high because so many South Carolinians originally thought they were not eligible for a Marketplace plan.  This was particularly true with small businesses, self-employed people, and historically marginalized populations,” said Shelli Quenga, the Palmetto Project’s Director of Programs.

“Most people in South Carolina enrolled directly at,” she added, “but many others had unique circumstances or had questions about eligibility, plan comparisons, Federal subsidies, and tax benefits.  We helped them with all of that.”

Open enrollment for the 2016 Health Insurance Marketplace begins Saturday, November 1, 2015 and ends January 31, 2016.  At other times, residents can enroll if they have had a recent life change that affects their health insurance coverage.  Eligible life changes that qualify someone for the Special Enrollment Period include job loss or other income change, loss of employer health insurance, birth of a baby, marriage or divorce, or aging out of coverage under a parent’s plan.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 209,000 South Carolinians were able to choose a health plan last year, and nearly nine out of ten received financial assistance and paid premiums of $100 or less each month.

Nationally, more than 10 million Americans have gained health coverage, with the national uninsured rate dropping to less than 10% for the first time.  The Health Insurance Marketplace helps uninsured people enroll in health coverage.  Consumers can get more information or schedule an appointment with a Certified Marketplace Navigator by calling signupSC toll-free at 1-888-998-4646 or visiting



About signupSC

signupSC, a partnership of Palmetto Project, utilizes certified insurance navigators to provide free, local, confidential enrollment assistance to South Carolinians about their options for affordable health care coverage in both the Health Insurance Marketplace and SC Healthy Connections Medicaid. Palmetto Project works collaboratively with other agencies and organizations to share unbiased, accurate, and culturally competent enrollment information with people around the state.

About the Palmetto Project

Palmetto Project is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify innovative approaches to social and economic challenges facing South Carolina. Through special partnerships with governments, businesses, civic groups, schools, and religious organizations, Palmetto Project strives to bring a fresh entrepreneurial spirit to the challenge of building successful communities in a great state. For more information, call (843) 577-4122 or visit

For information about the federal navigator grants in all 34 federally-facilitated and partnership states, click here.

The ‪‎ACA‬ is working in South Carolina.

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the right of consumers in states using the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace like South Carolina to receive Advanced Premium Tax Credits to purchase affordable, comprehensive health insurance was the right thing for more than 150,000 of our friends and neighbors who currently have Marketplace health plans.

SignUp SCFor 23 of our organization’s 31 years, we have been working to create a system of care for the uninsured. The Affordable Care Act goes a long way in developing affordable coverage options and consumer protections for working people in SC. Since the law’s implementation, we have been working collaboratively with public agencies, advocacy groups, and social service organizations to ensure that South Carolinians have an unbiased, comprehensive understanding of how the law affects them.

As the statewide insurance navigator grantee, we will continue to work tirelessly around the state to provide free, local, confidential assistance to working South Carolinians on their options for health care coverage in both the Marketplace and SC Healthy Connections Medicaid. We do this work in partnership with navigators at Able SC, the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce, SC PASOs, Richland Library, SC HIV/AIDS Council, and DECO Recovery Management. We provide consumer information and resources in partnership with SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center and their website, ACA enrollment increased by 45% this year in SC, and we continue to share unbiased and accurate enrollment information with people around the state.

Our work is not done. While we work to reach more eligible and uninsured residents, we still have 194,000 South Carolinians who have no affordable coverage options. We are working closely with the Close The Gap SC coalition to craft a coverage solution for our state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents, while we patch together resources with community health centers, free clinics and prescription assistance programs.

‪#‎ACAHeretoStay‬ ‪#‎ACAisWorking‬ ‪#‎signupSC‬