Navigators busy as March 31 ACA deadline nears - - Columbia, South Carolina

Navigators busy as March 31 ACA deadline nears


South Carolina's debate to nullify the Affordable Care Act just ended last week and navigators say the latest enrollment numbers show some hesitation on the part of the public to take the leap and sign up.

After being laid off last year, shopping for health insurance was daunting for Lynn Thomas.

"I was nervous," said Thomas.

But Monday's deadline motivated her to get answers at Blue, a retail insurance store with options for coverage.

For Thomas, the result was just what she needed.

"The cost for the monthly premiums was better than I ever had," said Thomas.

Navigators say many are surprised at how low their premiums are and what subsidies are available for them.

"The average working person in South Carolina, making $24,000 a year can get an insurance policy for only $30, $40 a month," said Brett Bursey from the South Carolina Progressive Network.

But the latest numbers show South Carolinians have been slow to sign up.

So far, 43,299 South Carolinians have purchased insurance from the exchange. This is less than half of the original benchmark set for the state. Eighty-eight percent of those who signed up received a subsidy.

"A number of people back in the fall when the website was so troublesome might very well have given up at that point or put it on hold," said Adam Myrick, a spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.

While March 31 is the deadline, there is a limited extension available for certain cases. For instance, complex cases that require paperwork be mailed in to verify your identity could qualify for an extension.

"As long as you've started the process, you've tried to get yourself signed up, you can continue it after March 31," explained navigator Tim Liszewski.

No timeframe has been set on the extension. If you miss the deadline, there may be one other way to sign up before open enrollment in November.

"If you get married, or you get divorced, or you have a child, you can work with a navigator to help get signed up then," said Liszewski.

If March 31 goes by and you still don't have insurance, certain taxpayers may be subject to pay a penalty of 1 percent of their income or a fine of $95 -- whichever is higher.

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