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Health care overhaul bill raises hackles of S.C. lawmakers

With the clock ticking toward a Christmas Eve Senate vote on health care reform, South Carolina Republicans lashed out Monday at the proposed legislation, and also took swipes at Democrats for the tactics used in moving the bill forward.

South Carolina would have 481,000 uninsured residents covered under the plan, according to one estimate.

"This is Washington politics at its worst, and I urge the American people to help scrap this backroom bill," said U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked South Carolina's attorney general to look into a Medicaid deal for Nebraska struck to secure the 60th vote required to advance the bill — that of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

Even before the pending Senate bill was fully unveiled, Republican Gov. Mark Sanford warned federal lawmakers that Congress' pending reform initiatives would hurt the state, hamstringing private insurers and swelling entitlement spending in South Carolina by as much as $1.3 billion.

"The bills being debated will also add a new group of people eligible for Medicaid - adults with no children - to the state's Medicaid rolls," Sanford said in a letter to the state's U.S. senators.

But a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization for health care consumers says nearly a half-million uninsured South Carolinians will gain coverage under the newly minted Senate proposal alone.

And U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., one of the highest-ranking members in House, said all the criticism is itself rushed.

"I don't know what is in the Senate version, and no one knows what the blended version will yield," Clyburn said Monday evening. "It is a bit premature to say how South Carolina will be affected."

With the Senate seemingly poised to approve a final version of its bill Christmas Eve, who is right may be less the question than who will prevail in the continuing, strident health care debate of 2009.

Wilson, in a statement issued Monday after the crucial 1 a.m. vote was taken to clear the bill for final considerations before a full Senate vote, called for a vocal response to Senate Democrats' plans to pass the reform measure.

"'Tis the season for the American people to make their voices heard," said Wilson, who hosted town hall meetings this summer that gave outspoken opponents a forum.

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