600,000 South Carolinians running out of time for health coverage

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Thousands of South Carolinians without health insurance are just days away from the Sunday at 11:59 p.m. deadline to get insured through the Affordable Care Act.

Health experts say just a couple of months ago more than 600,000 South Carolinians still did not have health coverage. In fact, a poll shows that many other uninsured Americans are sitting on the sidelines.

Insurers say the biggest question they get from those looking to enroll is, "How much is health care going to cost me?" That amount will vary based on your coverage needs.

Health care expert Lee Patterson says she's seen plans cost as low as $15 to upwards of $200 each month. Navigators with organizations throughout the Midlands are trained to help you choose the plan best for you and your family's needs.

Patterson says it's typically an easy process to sign up for coverage but, she cautions, consumers need to plan out time to go thoroughly go through the coverage they're signing up for.

"People come in and think, 'I'm going to get in and get out and go about my day.' It's going to take a little while," Patterson said. "There are a lot of options to choose from. There are a lot of different plans, a lot of different numbers we've got to throw at you and things to understand. Health insurance is complicated. We do our best to make sure you leave here well-informed about the plan that you've chosen and how to use it to the best of, you know, what's most cost-effective for you."

As of Wednesday, more than 215,000 South Carolinians have enrolled in the federal marketplace for 2016. There are four health insurance providers you are able to choose from in South Carolina: Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Choice, and United Health Care. If you choose not to enroll in coverage, be reminded, the penalty this year increased to $695 or two percent of your income, whichever is greater. Now if you have already enrolled in coverage, and you would like to make changes, you need to do so by Sunday's deadline.

"For most people, employer-based coverage, as long as it meets what they call 'minimally-essential benefits.' So as long as it's covering doctors' visits, in-patient stays, emergency room, the gambit of most health insurance needs, then your employer coverage is probably a good fit. But it's worth a look, if you want to look we're happy to look with you."
If you're looking to sign up for health insurance experts say you'll need your log-in information for Healthcare.gov, Social Security numbers and birth dates for everyone in the household, income you're expected to make in 2016, and a valid ID among others.

And if you're completely overwhelmed by the thought of signing up—no need to fret, there are resources available to you:

  • This Sunday from noon until midnight at Brookland Baptist Church (1066 Sunset Boulevard, West Columbia) you can get free, one-on-one help from licensed agents to navigate the marketplace and sign you up for health insurance.
  • At Richland County Library Main Branch (1431 Assembly Street, Columbia) there is a license agent to help you all hours the library is open to help you sign up for health insurance.

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