The federal government will infuse nearly $2.4 million into 19 health centers across South Carolina to help enroll residents in a health insurance plan, according to an announcement.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the money may be spent hiring 45 people to assist 41,050 South Carolinians during the enrollment process. A share of the money will be sent directly to each health center.
“Across the nation, 1,159 health centers will receive $150 million in grant awards,” a release said.
The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act establishes different ways for Americans to enroll in a health insurance plan. One of those is expanding the Medicaid program for low-income residents, but lawmakers in South Carolina decided this year to refuse federal assistance to accomplish that.
The state also refused to establish a South Carolina health insurance marketplace, but residents in South Carolina will be able to shop for a plan in the federal marketplace. Some also will qualify for subsidies to help pay for the insurance. The federal grant money will be used to hire staff to help them navigate some of their choices.
An estimated 36 percent of patients who were served by a community health center in South Carolina last year were uninsured, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“This investment will give South Carolina neighborhoods and towns one more resource to help people understand their insurance options and enroll in affordable coverage,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
The state Medicaid agency is prepping for an anticipated uptick of residents applying for Medicaid cards.
The department is spending an additional $250,000 this year to ramp up its call center in expectation of a surge of questions about the federal health care law.
Deputy Director John Supra says call center hours began increasing July 1 and the agency is hiring to pre-pare for a full ramp-up in October, when people can begin buying health insurance through the federal insurance marketplace. He says the call center will be able to handle 50 percent more calls.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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