Times and Democrat
February 8, 2015


An educational forum brought together several groups to explore health care options for municipalities, small businesses and non-profit organizations under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus and the Regional Medical Center ACA Work Group sponsored last month’s lunch, which was held at the Regional Medical Center Education Center.

Representatives from the Palmetto Project, the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce and the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce joined representatives from insurance companies to discuss health care opportunities, including tax credits for businesses with 50 employees or less.

“The ACA Work Group just feels compelled to get accurate information out because so many people are so misinformed about the ACA is and what it provides,” said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who leads the ACA Work Group.

Under the ACA, insurance can be purchased through online marketplaces on the federal government’s site, HealthCare.gov.

The Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace helps small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees — including non-profit organizations — provide health coverage to their employees.

Employers can enroll in SHOP any month or any time of year because there is no restricted enrollment period when they can start offering a SHOP plan.

Brad Zaba, director of the ACA Outreach Program for the S.C. Small Business Chamber, explained that employers with fewer than 25 employees may qualify for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit worth up to 50 percent of their premium costs. The tax credit, however, is available only for plans bought through the SHOP Marketplace.

“Our sole purpose is to give you some exposure to the options that are available to you in this marketplace,” Zaba said, noting that even if employers don’t offer a group health plan, they may opt to bring in insurance agents or brokers to help employees secure their own insurance.

Small businesses can access the SHOP Marketplace online at www.healthcare.gov/small-businesses/provide-shop-coverage/qualify-for-shop-marketplace.

There is no cost if an individual or business seeks the help of an insurance broker or agent to help them navigate through the online marketplace, Zaba said. He added that the federal government’s site, HealthCare.gov, has also made it much easier to calculate premium costs and tax credit estimates.

Leilani Bessinger, a certified navigator with the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce, said the enrollment period for individuals ends on Feb. 15. Bessinger’s service area includes Bamberg County.

“Presently we have 12 navigators. … We have five insurance companies in South Carolina” with plans being offered through the online marketplaces, Bessinger said.

Carrie Whipper, a certified navigator with Palmetto Project, said Palmetto Project provides certified navigators across the state. Individuals can call Palmetto Project’s call center at 1-888-998-4646 to schedule an appointment with a navigator.

Brenda Williams, RMC’s vice president of strategy and compliance, also noted that individuals can access the hospital’s certified application counselors on-site to assist in marketplace enrollment. Individuals can come by the Resource Care Alliance Office at the RMC, or patient registration entrance, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Individuals can also call 803-395-2023 or toll-free at 1-855-241-5320 to find out what materials they need to bring to apply for coverage.


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