The Senate bill goes farther and, we think, it is a better plan. Under this proposal, which passed with an overwhelming 33-11 vote, about half of the $160 million raised would be used to expand Medicaid services to low-income families and the disabled, while the other half would pay insurance premiums for low-income workers.
It is estimated that this plan would help a quarter of the state's uninsured -- or 700,000 people -- find or buy medical coverage. And because every dollar the state spends on Medicaid is matched three-to-one by federal dollars, this also is an economical way to help hundreds of thousands of the state's neediest residents.
Significantly, simply raising the cigarettes tax also would provide a health benefit in its own right. Ample evidence in other states shows that raising the price for a pack of cigarettes discourages young teens from smoking. Thus, a 50-cent hike in the cigarette tax could prevent thousands of young South Carolinians from picking up the habit in the first place.