Federal health care enrollment reopens to help people during pandemic

Updated: Feb. 15, 2021 at 2:39 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - People without health insurance have a new opportunity to sign up for Affordable Health Care Act coverage. This comes after President Joe Biden signed an executive order last month allowing for a three-month special enrollment period due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Enrollment can begin on Monday and goes through May 15. The federal marketplace can be accessed at Healthcare.gov.

It allows people to enroll in Affordable Care Act healthcare coverage also known as Obamacare.

A statewide nonprofit, the Palmetto Project, is helping people with the enrollment process.

Palmetto Project’s Director of Programs Shelli Quenga says people often don’t know the details about how to enroll until they need help. She says many people have lost their job sponsored insurance due to the pandemic.

“This is a very important opportunity for them to get coverage that could start now and go on through the end of the year or until they find a job,” Quenga said.

Quenga says it’s common for people to assume they are ineligible for benefits when they do meet qualifications.

“Right now, essentially, anyone who is uninsured should be calling to see if they are eligible for an enrollment period and be able to get coverage,” Quenga said.

She says people are often shocked how affordable their premiums can be after tax credit and financial assistance is applied. She says most people in the state can get a policy for less than $74 a month.

The Palmetto Project is a nonprofit insurance agency and has licensed insurance agents to help people through the enrollment process for free over the phone. You do not need a computer to get assistance.

Quenga said to determine your eligibility you will need to provide the dates of birth and the people on your tax return. You’ll also need to provide your projected income for 2021.

The Palmetto Project can also direct you to Medicaid coverage, if you qualify, along with prescription assistance programs and other opportunities and services to help reduce your medical costs.

Next month the Community Resource Center in Summerville and North Charleston will be opening its doors to the public to help get people enrolled.

“This virus has proven to us that we need a lot of people covered at the moment,” the center’s Executive Director, Louis Smith said.

Smith says they’re partnering with the Palmetto Project to help the community.

“We know there’s a lot of confusion out there and we want to clear it up and we want to make sure that anyone who is qualified to be for Obamacare will be covered,” Smith said.

Democrats are pushing for coronavirus aid that could cut premiums making healthcare more affordable.

On Monday, Quenga is participating in a South Carolina Hospital Association phone bank to help people enroll.

You can reach the Palmetto Project at (888) 998-4646. They can also go to people to assist them in-person and they offer their services in multiple languages.

The Palmetto Project’s mission is to identify innovative strategies to address the social and economic challenges facing the state and put them into action.

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