Fewer than 600 South Carolinians successfully enrolled in a health insurance plan through the federal marketplace last month, according to initial data released by the Obama administration Wednesday.
By the numbers
11,249: Completed applications by S.C. residents to start the health insurance enrollment process
572: S.C. residents who have selected a marketplace plan
846,184: Completed applications across U.S. to start the enrollment process
106,185: Residents across the country who have selected a plan through the federal marketplace or a state-based marketplace
The enrollment figure — 572 in South Carolina, to be exact — is low, as predicted, and it’s not a problem unique to this state. Sign-up numbers across the country are widely considered dismal, mainly because HealthCare.gov won’t work for the vast majority of people who have been trying to use it.
About 755,000 uninsured S.C. residents must purchase insurance to comply with the Affordable Care Act next year, and about half of those won’t need to pay the full sticker price for a policy.
“Five-seventy-two is still a woefully low number, but it’s about what we expected,” said S.C. Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer. “Numbers have been hard to come by. Just from the information we’ve been able to glean from the carriers, we knew it was pretty close to the 500 range.”
The report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offered the first peek at enrollment data through the federal marketplace since it launched Oct. 1.
It shows South Carolina residents trying to enroll in a plan fared better than residents in other parts of the country.
Fewer than 100 residents in Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming signed up for a policy last month, for instance.
On the high end, more than 35,000 residents in California, which is operating its own insurance exchange, enrolled last month.
Enrollment data was not made available for the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts or Oregon, all of which also are operating their own health insurance exchanges.
Reacting to the report Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley called the Affordable Care Act an “absolute disaster.”
“We don’t want it in South Carolina, we don’t need it in South Carolina — which is exactly why Gov. Haley made sure that South Carolina taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the bill,” said spokesman Doug Mayer in an email.
South Carolina is one of 36 states that chose to participate in the federal health insurance marketplace, instead of setting up its own website. The 14 states plus the District of Columbia that established their own health insurance exchanges were able to enroll many more residents in a health plan last month, the new report shows.
Almost 80,000 residents in the states with state-based exchanges successfully picked a plan last month, compared with only about 27,000 new enrollees in the states participating in the federal exchange.
In South Carolina, the U.S. Census estimates that more than 700,000 residents have no health insurance. Most of them will need to sign up for a plan by March 31 or face a $95 fine for failing to comply with the Affordable Care Act.
Total private insurance enrollment after the first month of the health care rollout was only about one-fifth what the Obama administration had expected during that time period, according to The Associated Press.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said she expects things to improve.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.
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