- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A coalition of groups that wants South Carolina to spend more on health care, education and other social issues brought their protests inside the Statehouse on Tuesday.

About 30 people gathered outside the governor’s office for a Truthful Tuesday rally calling for the state to accept federal money to expand Medicaid and provide more money for health care overall.

South Carolina’s decision not to expand the government health insurance for the poor was solely based on opposition to President Barack Obama and the new federal health care law he supported, said South Carolina Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey, who is helping to organize the protests.

“What you are doing makes no sense. Choices are being made for petty political reasons,” Bursey said.

South Carolina Republican lawmakers have said they don’t want to expand Medicaid because the federal money will go away at some point leaving the state responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars for the new enrollees. The director of the state’s Medicaid agency also doesn’t want to take the money to expand the program, saying Medicaid is broken and doesn’t provide very efficient health care.

The rally spotlighted people who have been helped through the new health care law and people who could have qualified for Medicaid had the state taken the money to expand the program to cover everyone below the federal poverty line and some who are above it.

Rally organizers said Walter Durst is one of the 250,000 people in South Carolina who have no health insurance, but would have been covered with Medicaid. He hasn’t had health insurance since losing a retail job in 2008 and faces a five-year wait before his age makes him Medicaid eligible. He said he constantly fears he will get a serious illness and has put off preventative care like a colonoscopy because he can’t afford it.

“I’m walking on eggshells. I’m afraid to get sick,” Durst said.

The first Truthful Tuesday rally brought several hundred people to the Statehouse to protest what they say is social inequality in South Carolina.

The rallies are organized by civil rights and progressive groups. They are modeled on protests last year in North Carolina. A critical component of the protests up there was civil disobedience, as nearly 1,000 people were arrested over several months. So far, no arrests have come from the South Carolina rallies.

Organizers plan on meeting to figure out how to continue the Truthful Tuesday protests through the Legislative session.

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