Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on expediting Medicaid applications:
Medicaid expansion remains a topic of heated debate. So do numerous other aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
But there should be no debate about the need to give Americans who apply for Medicaid fair - and prompt - notification of whether they are eligible for the program.
Unfortunately, though, as reported on Tuesday's front page by Lauren Sausser, that need is not being met in our state.
The story began: "Thousands of South Carolina residents who filed for Medicaid between October and mid-July are still waiting to find out if they qualify for the government's low-income health insurance program."
While most Medicaid applications "are typically approved or denied within six days, the state agency responsible for processing the paperwork hasn't been able to keep pace with an influx from HealthCare.gov."
That's despite the fact that South Carolina is one of the two dozen states that have not agreed to participate in the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid eligibility up to 138 percent of the federal poverty income level.
S.C. Department of Health and Human Services director Tony Keck has responded to the Medicaid-application backlog by putting more employees on the job of reducing it and implementing new "productivity standards."
While it's of no consolation to the thousands of South Carolinians waiting to learn where they stand with Medicaid, our state evidently isn't as far behind on this obligation as some others.
Keck told our reporter that there "is a plan in place" to fix this mess.
The sooner, the better.
The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, on veterans bill:
Well, maybe Congress can get something done - especially when the results are politically expedient for members of both parties. That seems to be the dynamic behind a last-minute agreement to strike a deal for much needed reforms of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
After news reports that thousands of veterans were forced to wait for weeks or even months to receive medical care, with some dying before they could be scheduled to see a doctor, both houses of Congress acted quickly to pass their own reform bills. Senators voted 93-3 last month to approve a bipartisan bill, while the House voted unanimously to pass several measures to hire more personnel and institute changes to remove incompetent workers.
Talks between House and Senate leaders began in June but soon bogged down with both sides accusing the other of delaying tactics. It began to appear that Congress would leave for its August recess without passing a bill.
But with the Friday recess looming, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who chair the House and Senate committees on veterans' affairs, began a whirlwind round of negotiations over the weekend. And on Monday, Sanders and Miller announced they had reached a settlement.
The compromise bill would take extraordinary emergency measures to make sure that the nation's veterans have timely access to medical care. The bill would cost about $15 billion, with $10 billion going to cover the cost of veterans seeking care outside the VA network. The remaining $5 billion would help streamline and improve services at VA hospitals.
Eligible military veterans would be given a "Veterans Choice Card," which would allow them to get care outside the system from Medicare-eligible providers. The bill also would give the VA secretary "complete authority" to fire corrupt or incompetent senior executives.
The inability to agree to that easy fix is a sign of the toxic ill will in Washington. Even when there was no political price to be paid and both sides stood to gain from an agreement, it barely got done.
The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on control on water:
South Carolina needs to better regulate the harvest of blue crabs.
This season shows major weaknesses in the state's ability to preserve one of its most popular natural resources. So far this season, the number of crabs seems to be continuing a long-running downward trend. But the price they can fetch is so high that many commercial crab traps are in the waterways in some areas.
This convergence has shown once again that South Carolina has lax oversight of the commercial crabbing industry.
The state Department of Natural Resources has no legal authority to limit the crab harvest, commercial crabbing licenses, the number of crab traps in the water, or for the most part restrict where crab traps can be located.
By contrast, the states of Virginia and Maryland have announced lower limits on the harvest of female crabs this season. It is seen as one of the few tools it can use in seeking a stable resource, which is declining in the Chesapeake Bay area and other areas.
The new harvest limit is not a silver bullet. After all, this tactic has been used repeatedly to restore a resource that remains in decline.
But South Carolina does not even have that option. Neither can it restrict licenses sold to out-of-state crabbers, a tactic many states use to prevent over-fishing.
DNR can do only what the state legislature gives it the authority to do, even though the department is overseen by its own commission and has a number of advisory committees.
We suggest the biologists and other DNR scientists who monitor the blue crab harvest be granted a direct way to implement regulations that would protect the natural resource.
What happens to the crabs in our creeks should be a scientific decision, not a political one.