With dozens of disability advocates watching from the gallery, the S.C. House voted to add $173.6 million of federal money to the state budget to restore proposed cuts to health care services.
The 96-6 vote was the first major decision during what is expected to be a week of floor debate on the House's proposed $5.1 billion state spending plan. Congress has yet to give final approval to the money that extends a more generous federal health care match through June 2011, but House lawmakers are convinced the money will eventually get to S.C.
The money means that state agencies can: Continue in-home services for the disabled; scrap a proposed cap of three prescriptions per month for Medicaid patients; continue funding for preventive health care programs such as community clinics and Welvista, which works with pharmaceutical companies to provide free drugs to those in need; set aside $27 million for next year, when the state will face a more than $1 billion budget hole when federal stimulus money ends.
"We are in a much, much better place," said Department of Disabilities and Special Needs spokeswoman Lois Park Mole. "Our services are in a much better place."
House Democrats said restoring the cuts was a top priority, and said S.C. Republicans were balancing the state budget before the federal money was approved.