150K in S.C. have signed up for Obamacare

New federal data shows more than 150,000 people in South Carolina have signed up for an Affordable Care Act insurance policy through the federal marketplace.

More than 150,000 South Carolinians have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace since Nov. 15, new federal data shows.

That number is already significantly higher than the total number who signed up and paid for insurance during the six-month open enrollment window last year.

“It’s becoming more common and people believe ... it’s here to stay,” said Adrian Grimes, a spokeswoman for Consumers’ Choice Health Plan, one of five insurance carriers selling coverage to South Carolina customers on HealthCare.gov this year. “I think the fear factor ... has subsided since last year.”

Also, Grimes said, consumers are more aware now that not being insured will cost them money. The Internal Revenue Service requires proof of health insurance. The federal government will fine individuals $325 or 2 percent of their household income — whichever amount is higher — if they are not insured this year. Next year, the fine jumps to $695 per person or 2.5 percent of their household income.

It is not clear from the new data how many of the 150,962 have paid for their coverage yet or how many were simply renewing plans they picked last time around. The data is up to date through Jan. 9.

Across the country, 6.8 million people have enrolled in coverage since Nov. 15. Enrollment ends in mid-February.

“If you don’t enroll by February 15, then you may have to wait until next year to sign up for affordable coverage,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, in a prepared statement.

To enroll in a health insurance plan, visit www.HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.