• Georgetown Times
  • Waccamaw Times
  • Inlet Outlook

Hospital system co-hosts Obamacare enrollment fairs

  • Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In South Carolina, more than 41,000 people have selected a health insurance plan through the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace. However, there are an estimated 700,000 South Carolinians without health insurance — including thousands of our friends and neighbors right here in Georgetown and Horry counties.

At Georgetown Hospital System, we see firsthand the difference quality, affordable health insurance makes in people’s lives. People who have health insurance are more likely to receive valuable preventive care, as well as treatment for serious chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

For the next few weeks, individuals without health insurance still have the opportunity to enroll in coverage through the federal government. Open enrollment is under way through March 31.

Of course, we all know there have been challenges with the enrollment process. We’ve seen news coverage of website problems and long wait times for telephone assistance. That’s why Georgetown Hospital System, in partnership with other community health providers, is making representatives available to assist area residents with the enrollment process.

If you or a member of your family need help signing up for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov, you have several opportunities to seek assistance. At Georgetown Hospital System, we have representatives available to answer your questions at 843.520.8202. In addition, both Little River Medical Center and St. James-Santee Family Health Center are offering assistance. To reach a representative from Little River, you can call 843.663.8090. And representatives from St. James-Santee can be reached at 843.826.3773 in McClellanville, at 843.826.6989 in Georgetown and at 843.810.4351 in McClellanville/Sampit.

There are also several free enrollment fairs planned across our community in the coming weeks. These fairs will be your opportunity to sit down with a certified application counselor who can guide you — at no cost — through the enrollment process. Enrollment fairs are planned at the following places and times:

Wednesday, Feb. 19

Georgetown Memorial Hospital lobby area between ER and Radiology

606 Black River Road, Georgetown

8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 21

Waccamaw Community Hospital main lobby

4070 U.S. 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet

8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 26

Georgetown Memorial Hospital lobby area between ER and Radiology

606 Black River Road, Georgetown

8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 28

Waccamaw Community Hospital main lobby

4070 U.S. 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet

8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 6

Socastee Public Library

141 707-Connector Road, Myrtle Beach

10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Sponsored by Little River Medical Center

We know people have many questions about the enrollment process, and we’re here to help. We’re also happy to share the following frequently asked questions, with answers provided by the South Carolina Hospital Association.

Q: How will the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” affect me?

A: The Affordable Care has four broad goals: increasing coverage, payment reform, delivery system reform and insurance reform. While payment and delivery system reform measures in the act aim to improve the care you receive from health care providers, the measures to increase coverage and reform insurance will impact decisions you make in the coming months.

Increased health insurance coverage is intended to be achieved through the Health Insurance Marketplace and the expansion of Medicaid. If you are uninsured and make between $11,490 and $45,960 a year ($23,550 to $94,200 for a family of four), you will likely be eligible for premium assistance and/or subsidies to help you purchase private insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace. But if you are one of more than 200,000 uninsured South Carolinians making below $11,490 a year, you will be left out of any coverage or coverage assistance through the ACA because South Carolina, to date, has rejected extending coverage through Medicaid expansion.

Insurance reforms in the ACA are expected to increase access to health insurance. If you have a pre-existing condition, you can no longer be denied coverage. Your coverage can no longer be canceled because you get sick. Higher premiums based on gender or medical history, and annual or lifetime limits on coverage are no longer permitted. If you are a young adult, you can now stay on your parents’ health insurance policy until you are 26 years old.

Q: What is the Health Insurance Marketplace?

A: The Health Insurance Marketplace is an online shopping mall like Orbitz or Travelocity for health insurance. Consumers can shop for and compare the coverage of various health plans in the marketplace by visiting Healthcare.gov or calling 1-800-318-2596.

Q: What if I don’t sign up for a plan?

A: If you and your family are uninsured and remain uninsured, you may be subject to financial penalties. These penalties will be executed through tax returns, so those not receiving returns will not be subject to penalties, in addition to those meeting exemptions in the law (economic hardship, religious sect opposition, Indian tribes, etc.).

Q: How long do I have before I need to make a decision about which health insurance plan to purchase?

A: Open enrollment for the marketplace concludes March 31.

Q: When will the coverage kick in?

A: Coverage through the marketplace can start one to two months after enrollment and payment of your first month’s premium.

Bruce Bailey is president and CEO of Georgetown Hospital System.

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