GOP Gov. Haley accused of wasting tax dollars on 'sham' study

Critics are accusing Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) of wasting more than $100,000 in federal tax dollars on what critics call a "sham" analysis of how to implement President Obama's healthcare reform law in her state.

The governor applied for and received a $1 million federal grant to plan for health insurance exchanges, which will go online in 2014. In states that don't set up their own exchanges, the federal government will run things.

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Haley established the nonpartisan South Carolina Health Planning Committee on March 10 with the stated intention of determining "whether or not the state should establish a health insurance exchange," The Post and Courier reports. But internal records obtained by the newspaper suggest Haley had her mind set on what the panel's conclusion should be before it ever met.

"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," Haley said in a March 31 email obtained by the paper under the state's public records law.

A spokesman for the Haley administration told The Post and Courier that the governor was "watching out for the citizens of our state as we try to deliver the most health care for the least amount of money."

Haley's comments also raise questions about what other Republican-led states are doing with their healthcare reform grants. Every state except Alaska applied for and received $1 million exchange planning grants last year.

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The Haley administration has spent at least $109,000 of its grant on the panel and its four subcommittees. Panelists who have attended more than 30 meetings over the past seven months expressed outrage.

"This confirms this whole thing was an effort to justify the million-dollar grant," Frank Knapp, the president of the pro-reform South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, told the newspaper. "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."