Ruling opens way for more types of health insurance in SC, experts say

Ruling opens way for more types of health insurance in SC, experts say

The decision “preserves the momentum for affordable health insurance,” said Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

The State
June 26, 2015

By TIM FLACH

COLUMBIA SC

South Carolina residents will see a wider variety of health insurance offerings after the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld federal subsidies that help pay for coverage, industry experts predict.

The decision provides “clarity and continuity” that will spur innovation, said Jim Ritchie, executive director of an industry trade group known as the South Carolina Alliance of Health Plans.

“Consumers will see new opportunities” but it’s too soon to say what will come, he said.

Officials at the South Carolina Hospital Association agree that new approaches will multiply.

“There are many different models,” association spokeswoman Rozalynn Goodwin said. “There’s a lot of flexibility to create solutions.”

BlueCross BlueShield, one of the state’s largest health care insurers, said it will work to “transform” medical care through partnerships with doctors, hospitals and patients.

The aim is to assure the sick “get healthy faster and stay healthy longer while reining in health care costs for everyone,” company spokeswoman Patti Embry-Tautenhan said.

More than 100,000 residents of South Carolina will keep coverage since the ruling allows continuation of subsidies that help them pay for it.

Those persons would have been affected if federal subsidies became illegal because South Carolina is among states that didn’t create create insurance exchanges.

About 154,000 people in the state selected insurance through the federal marketplace enrollment period that ended Feb. 15. About 90 percent of them had income low enough to qualify for a subsidy.

Taking into account a 20 percent dropout rate, about 115,000 people in South Carolina had subsidies that makes insurance affordable for them.

More insurers probably design plans to use the subsidies to provide coverage, including some of the estimated 200,000 state residents yet without it, Ritchie said.

Some SC groups who support the federal health care plan called for a halt to challenges to it.

“Opponents of health reform in Congress should accept that it is here to stay and stop putting forth misguided proposals that would undermine its success,” the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center said in a statement.

There is “still room for great improvement” in federal standards for health insurance but the ruling should end should end many complaints, state Democratic party chairman Jaime Harrison said.

Many SC Republicans promised to continue fighting a plan they see as onerous.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, wants to replace it with an unspecified “safety net for people in need.”

One business group called the ruling beneficial for firms that struggle to provide coverage for workers even when given tax credits.

The decision “preserves the momentum for affordable health insurance,” said Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

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