Thousands in SC waited till last minute to pay for health care

jholleman@thestate.comMay 6, 2014 

— Thousands of South Carolinians waited until the last minute to pay for their new policies on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The number of South Carolinians who have made the first premium payment for those policies jumped from 67,846 to 85,453 from April 15 through April 30.

For most of the people who signed up for policies in late April or March, the deadline to make that first payment was May 1.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week released its tally of the number of policies selected nationwide and in each state. But the federal government hasn't provided information on how many policy shoppers actually made their first premium payment.

That information, however, is included in reports by insurance companies to the S.C. Department of Insurance. Agency directory Ray Farmer has been publicizing the payment numbers, which he considers indicative of how many people are getting insurance through the new marketplace.

In addition to the people who have paid for new insurance policies in the state through the marketplace, 41,542 applicants were deemed eligible for Medicaid coverage. Those applications were forwarded to S.C. Health and Human Services, which coordinates Medicaid in the state.

Adding together those who paid for policies and those who were forwarded to Medicaid, about 127,000 applicants who went through the federal insurance exchange now have health insurance.

The last-month surge in interest before the federal marketplace enrollment period ended March 31 translated into many as-late-as-possible payments. In two weeks, the federal marketplace policies for which insurance companies had received a first payment in South Carolina went from 59 percent to 71 percent.

The numbers still can change slightly after the May 1 deadline for first payment, Farmer noted, if people stop making monthly premium payments. Also, under certain life-changing circumstances, people who lose their private insurance will be allowed to sign up for federal health insurance marketplace policies.

The 17,607 people who made first payments in the last two weeks of April made only minor changes in the other important percentages, Farmer said.

The percent of policy buyers eligible for tax subsidies went up slightly to 89.86, and the average age of those covered stayed in the same range at 43.15 years.

The state-provided numbers have been slightly different from those provided by the federal government. The feds last week said 118,324 people in South Carolina had selected policies. The state reports a higher number – 119,784. Farmer said the differences are based on what day the numbers are compiled.

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