FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Free assistance for South Carolina residents through midnight at 1-888-998-4646
The number of South Carolinians enrolling in private health insurance through the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace will likely reach 200,000, according the non-profit Palmetto Project, a statewide organization assisting state residents and small businesses in accessing provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
“We have long since exceeded our original statewide estimates,” said Steve Skardon, the organization’s Executive Director. “South Carolinians are much less skeptical about the process this year. They like the improvements to the Marketplace website, and comparing plans and premiums. They have also become much more realistic about needing health insurance.”
Skardon said that state residents can purchase insurance directly at HealthCare.gov or by calling the Palmetto Project’s toll-free enrollment center at 1-888-998-4646 that provides free in-person assistance.
The current enrollment period began on November 15th and ends at midnight Sunday. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more than 180,373 state residents had secured coverage through the Marketplace by the end of the first week of February. Those failing to secure insurance coverage may be subject to tax penalties.
Shelli Quenga, the organization’s Director of Programs and coordinator of a statewide coalition of community health advocates, said that enrollment activity has picked up significantly this week, and she expects the group’s enrollment enter to stay busy well-beyond midnight Sunday.
“People who have started the enrollment process by the deadline will be able to finish up after the deadline,” she said, “But the best idea is to get started and get it done now.”
Healthcare.gov offers state residents multiple plans offered by five private sector insurance companies, and helps applicants determine subsidies and tax credits that might be available to them. US DHHS estimates that 83% of the state’s enrollees effectively would be paying an out-of-pocket premium of less than $100 a year, based on the experiences of those who signed up during the first six weeks of this year’s enrollment period.
According to Quenga, “This is a life-changing event for almost everyone who signs up. These are working people and many have either been priced out of the market in the past or denied coverage for any number of reasons. Some of the people we are seeing have two or even three jobs, and yet no access to affordable health insurance.” She estimated that nearly half of this year’s applicants were signing up for the first time.”
She also said that as many an estimated 40% of South Carolinians who contacted the Palmetto Project for assistance were not eligible for insurance because their incomes were too low. In many states, these people would qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage. However, a number of states, South Carolina included, are not offering this option.
“It is still important for low-income people to apply to S.C. Healthy Connections (Medicaid) even if they know they will be denied. The state is offering some limited benefits to this population that can be helpful,” she said. “It is also important for tax reasons for them to be able to prove that they have applied and been denied coverage.”
6296 Rivers Avenue, #100
10 a.m. – Midnight
Charleston County Library, 68 Calhoun Street (near East Bay Street)
2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Dudley’s – 42 Ann Street
3 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Richland County Library 2 pm – 6 pm
1231 Assembly Street
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Brookland Baptist Church
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Doctors Bruce & Lee Foundation Library
2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
1 pm – 9 pm