By Robert Kittle
South Carolinians are getting their first look at how much they might pay for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and it may be less than they expected. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released figures for South Carolina on Wednesday.
Lynn Bailey hasn't had health insurance for eight years, and she's excited about what she saw when the rates came out. "I had found a quote a week-and-a-half ago for $1,700 a month," she says. "And on the (health care) exchange, the second-lowest Silver quote was about $650 a month."
There are four different levels of coverage available in the health care exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Bronze provides less coverage for lower premiums and higher deductibles, with the others increasing in coverage and price. Insurance companies are not offering any Platinum plans in South Carolina.
Megan Weis, DrPH, with the South Carolina Institute of Medicine & Health, a non-profit, non-partisan group, says the rates vary widely based on which county you live in, your age, whether you smoke, and which coverage you choose. "The bronze plans will give you 60% coverage for the costs. The silver plans 70%, and the gold plans 80%," she says.
That's before any tax credits you may qualify for, though, which will lower your costs. The subsidies will be available for people who make between $11,500 and $47,000 a year.
Lynn Bailey, who says she will be buying coverage in the exchange, is also a health care economist. She's telling people not to panic about the October 1 enrollment date; that's only when people can start to sign up.
"If you don't have health insurance, you have until December 15th to enroll for January 1 coverage. So I'm planning to do this after Thanksgiving dinner," she says. "While everybody else is watching football, I'm going to be looking at health care options."
Weis says there will be plenty of help available to get you through picking coverage and enrolling. One option is to talk to a licensed health insurance agent or broker.
You can also go to this site the official government website for the Affordable Care Act. It will walk you through the enrollment process.
"You can enroll on your own," she says. "But there will be individuals called navigators that can help people, certified application counselors that can help people. There is a 'find local help' button, and a 'find local help' page that people can find out who those individuals are. If you're talking to a navigator, if you're talking to a counselor, ask them about the training they received, and they should have a certificate to be able to show people that, yes, they have been trained. They are legitimately able to assist you in this."
She warns that if someone calls you to try to enroll you that it's a scam.
You can see more details about the Affordable Care Act rates at: