U.S Sen. Bernie Sanders focused on poverty and health care as he began the second day of a weekend swing through the Palmetto State on Saturday.
Sanders told about 600 people in a community center in Sumter, South Carolina, that 27 percent of the children in the state live in poverty. Of those 300,000 children, 138,000 are black, 95,000 are white and 34,000 are Hispanic. “This issue of childhood poverty impacts every race and we’ve got to stand together to change it,” Sanders said.
The poverty data dramatizes wealth and income inequality in the United States. The gap between the rich and everyone else is greater today than at any time since before the Great Depression.
On health care, Sanders criticized South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the state Legislature for their “tragically wrong” refusal to expand Medicaid coverage for the poor and working families under the Affordable Care Act. “Don’t punish the people of your own state,” Sanders said, because of “your dislike of President Obama.”
The federal health care law was designed to provide Medicaid coverage for more than 10 million of the poorest uninsured Americans, including an estimated 200,000 people in South Carolina Under the law, the federal government covers 100 percent of the cost of expansion through 2016. After the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the expansion could only be implemented voluntarily, South Carolina was among states where Republican legislators and governors resisted giving more people access to health care.
A University of South Carolina study found South Carolina would receive $11.2 billion in federal funding by 2020 from Medicaid expansion. In addition to offering greater access to health care, the expansion would create more than 44,000 new jobs, the study concluded.