COLUMBIA, SC — In the past, anyone who needed to sign up for Medicaid coverage in South Carolina had to fill out a paper form and take it to a local office. Most had to do it at least once a year, and some had to do it more often.
Now, they can fill out an application online and submit it from home through the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy Connections website. More than 300 people submitted applications on the first day the site was operational on Oct. 1– the same day the federal Health Insurance Marketplace sputtered out of the starting block.
“Health care is changing, and it is important that we continue to implement innovative practices that provide efficient, quality service to our customers,” said John Supra, deputy director of the agency.
The online application is indicative of “a real shift in mindset,” Supra said. “It’s a switch from waiting for people to line up at our offices.”
If the agency wants to encourage people in Medicaid families to work, he said, why would it offer services only from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays. Some of the agency’s offices have expanded hours later in the day, but the online component is the big change.
When people sign up at apply.scdhhs.gov, they also free up time for the agency employees who used to help with applications. Now those staffers can get out in the field to let people know about Medicaid’s services for the disabled and low income families.
The website includes an initial eligibility assessment tool, contact information and frequently asked questions. It also has links to the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.
If applicants have questions that aren’t answered on the website, they can contact the agency’s call center at (888) 549-0820 from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays.
And local offices and paper applications still remain an option for applicants.