‘Get Covered’ Surge Center

The “Get Covered” Surge Center is at 360 Concord St. on Fountain Walk, next to the South Carolina Aquarium. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays through Dec. 20.

Walk-ins are welcome. Appointments can be scheduled by phone, 475-2859.

A new pop-up health insurance enrollment center near the South Carolina Aquarium was crowded during its first hour of business Monday morning — but not with residents eager to sign up for a policy under the Affordable Care Act.

Applications and information

Access the federal health insurance marketplace online at healthcare.gov, or by phone, 1-800-318-2596. Paper applications also can be downloaded from the website.

For more of The Post and Courier’s past coverage of the Affordable Care Act, visit postandcourier.com/ obamacare.

The small storefront, provided by the city of Charleston free of charge, was mainly full of volunteers and paid navigators. They were busy organizing pamphlets, answering cellphones, setting up a Christmas tree — all preparing for the rush of residents they hope will walk in over the next three weeks.

“I hope we have a good turnout,” said volunteer Catherine Johnstone of Mount Pleasant, who stood near the front, waiting to greet new enrollees as they walked through the door.

“I think a lot of people are getting misinformation,” she said. “They at least should know what they are able to get (under the Affordable Care Act).”

This temporary enrollment center in Fountain Walk is open on weekdays through Dec. 20. It is staffed by navigators hired by the nonprofit South Carolina Progressive Network, a left-leaning group that supports the Affordable Care Act. All navigators at the center have been certified and trained according to federal guidelines. Their services are free.

The Beaufort Black Chamber of Commerce also sent navigators to staff the center. “Over the next three weeks, I would love to see at least 100 consumers helped between now and the time we leave the space,” said Tim Liszewski, a Progressive Network navigator.

By mid-afternoon Monday, 12 people came to the pop-up center and two more had scheduled appointments, said navigator Loreen Myerson. Nearly 30 volunteers gave at least a few hours of their time at the center on Monday, she said. “Our volunteers here believe so strongly in health care for everyone and in expanding Medicaid that they’re willing to put in extraordinary amounts of time,” Myerson said. “The fact that these folks were willing to do it is indicative of how deeply they care.”

States are not obligated to accept federal money to grow their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. South Carolina is one of 26 states that rejected that option, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

While Medicaid expansion is optional, residents in South Carolina still must comply with the federal law’s mandate to sign up for health insurance. Most people are insured through their employer, or by Medicaid and Medicare, and already comply with the law. Those who do not can purchase a policy available on the federal insurance marketplace.

The federal government estimates that less than 600 residents in South Carolina were able to successfully do that in October, when HealthCare.gov wasn’t working well. Some improvements to the website since then have helped, but the government has not released any more official enrollment data.

Residents must choose a plan and pay their first month’s premium by Dec. 23 for their coverage to kick in on Jan. 1. Enrollment is open through March 31.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.