BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina opens new retail store in Mount Pleasant, but struggles to offer customers help with healthcare.gov
Agents at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina’s new Mount Pleasant store can help customers sign up for a health insurance plan — as long as they’re not trying to shop for coverage on healthcare.gov.
Shopping for insurance
Four insurance companies are selling a variety of plans through the federal health insurance marketplace. If you think you might qualify for a subsidy to help pay for health insurance, or want to purchase a policy available through the marketplace, visit www.healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.
The new BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina retail location is located in Towne Centre Place, 1795 Hwy. 17 North, Unit. 7, Mount Pleasant.
It’s not working for most consumers and it’s not working for the state’s largest insurance company either.
For more of The Post and Courier’s past coverage of the Afffordable Care Act, visit our online health care guide, www.postandcourier.com/obamacare.
The site includes a calculator to determine if you qualify for a subsidy to help pay for insurance, and a state-by-state look at health care reform.
“We’re experiencing some of the same issues (as) a consumer trying to shop on their own out there,” said Terry Peace, senior vice president for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina’s group and individual division.
Since the federal government opened enrollment through the new health insurance marketplace on Oct. 1, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has refused to disclose any enrollment data about plans they have sold on that platform.
The numbers are likely low; the overwhelmed website has made it very difficult for most people to sign up for coverage.
“We don’t really have a good handle on what those numbers are,” Peace said. “It’s really hard to get our arms wrapped around how many people have actually signed up.”
Peace traveled to Charleston from Columbia Monday to promote the company’s new retail location near Mount Pleasant Towne Centre. BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina operates one other retail store in Greenville.
The company is closing an older store in Charleston, about 4 miles south of the new location on Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant. The new, larger store is open for business and will celebrate its grand opening Saturday.
“We are finding that there is a segment of the population that really does like that face-to-face,” Peace said.
Most South Carolina residents are insured through their employer and don’t need to use this retail location or healthcare.gov or to sign up for a plan.
But the website is critical for low-income individuals who earn between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level and don’t have insurance through their workplace. The government will offer subsidies to these individuals to help them pay for coverage, but they must use the insurance marketplace to take advantage of the assistance.
Several companies, including BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, will offer plans for purchase outside of the marketplace, but the subsidies cannot be applied to help pay for these policies.
“The reality is people are very frustrated by the fact that they can’t sign up for health insurance (on healthcare.gov),” Peace said. “We can tell them that, yeah, this is consistent with what other consumers are seeing or what we’re seeing and so don’t panic, you’re not doing anything wrong.”
Two other insurance companies are offering plans for South Carolina residents to purchase through the federal marketplace.
Consumer’s Choice Health Plan and Coventry Health Care of the Carolina’s have not disclosed any enrollment data either. The companies did not respond to requests for this data Monday.
The federal government said this month that it will not release initial enrollment data until November.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.