Haley’s healthcare headache

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is generating some campaign-related news today, but the far more interesting story is the health care controversy the first-term governor has generated back at home.

Like all states, South Carolina was supposed to be working on creating a health care exchange — a marketplace where consumers can choose among competing coverage plan — and Haley’s office accepted taxpayer money to explore alternatives. Behind the scenes, however, the governor apparently had a far less constructive plan in mind.

Gov. Nikki Haley dictated the conclusions of a committee charged with deciding how the state should implement federal health care reform before the group ever held its first meeting, public documents show.

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.

In a March 31 email thread that included Haley, her top advisers and the committee member who eventually wrote the report, Haley wrote, “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,” which is eventually what happened.

The nonpartisan South Carolina Health Planning Committee was supposed to be working on policy alternatives, but Haley dictated otherwise. Officials were supposed to be creating an exchange, but Haley dictated otherwise. And the state was supposed to be using taxpayer money responsibly, but Haley dictated otherwise.

“Oh my God, we just threw $1 million away here,” said Frank Knapp, who participated in the meetings as president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “This confirms this whole thing was an effort to justify the million-dollar grant, but the reality is they had no intention of even exploring whether the state should establish an exchange — which is exactly what the grant called for.”

The Post and Courier added that Haley’s behind-the-scenes antics also “enraged consumer advocates, small business leaders, local economists, taxpayer watchdogs and S.C. Press Association officials this week,” many of whom falsely hoped the governor was working on public policy in good faith.

Asked for an explanation, Haley, who ran on a platform of transparency in government, refused to release relevant public records and shot down FOIA requests from journalists.

Yesterday, as Laura Conaway noted, Haley was tracked down in a hallway by reporters seeking a comment, and the governor simply refused to say anything at all, avoiding eye contact with those pressing her to account for her actions. This minute-long clip is worth watching:

For the record, states that balk at creating exchanges necessarily invite the federal government to create, and possibly manage, exchanges for these states. Haley, ironically, is welcoming expanded federal control over health care in her state.