Only 572 in SC signed up for health care in first month

jholleman@thestate.comNovember 13, 2013 

THE STATE MEDIA COMPANY

In South Carolina, 572 people were able to sign up for new policies on the Health Insurance Marketplace in the first month of its bungled operation.

That’s well below the thousands expected to seek health insurance on the online marketplace set up through the Affordable Care Act. But the balky healthcare.gov website made the process difficult, bordering on impossible, the first few weeks of its operation.

Nationally, 106,185 people signed up for policies on the marketplace from Oct. 1-Nov. 2, according to statistics released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. About one-third of those (35,364) were in California, which operates its own state marketplace.

Of the 36 states on the federal marketplace, 19 had fewer people than South Carolina get all the way through the process and sign up for policies from Oct. 1-Nov. 2. Florida had the most (3,571) and North Dakota the fewest (42), In South Carolina, 11,249 applications covering 20,980 people were completed through Nov. 2. People couldn’t begin shopping for policies until they had completed an application. South Carolina ranked 16th of the 36 states in number of applications completed.

Among the South Carolina applicants, 3,112 were determined to be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

While the Health Insurance Marketplace shopping got off to a slow start, things are picking up for the workers tasked with helping people shop in the state. Last week, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services opened a special technical assistance line available only to official Navigators and Certified Application Counselors.

Wanda Pearson, who is directing the Navigators at the Cooperative Ministry in Columbia, said the process of registration is going much more smoothly now.

“We’re getting a lot more inquiries, and a lot more walk-ins,” Pearson said.

People who tried to register in October and gave up should try again on their own or visit the various Navigators and Certified Application Counselors in the area. “We can help them get over the humps they have encountered,” Pearson said.

In the Columbia area, Navigators include The Cooperative Ministry (803) 799-3853, Greater Columbia Community Relations Council (803) 733-1129, S.C. Progressive Network (803) 445-1921 and the Benefit Bank of S.C. (803) 726-8774. Call one of those to set up an appointment.

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