Pop-up center to help residents buy health insurance in Charleston

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published Dec. 3, 2013

Navigators helped approximately 20 people sign up for health insurance on the opening day of a pop-up enrollment center in downtown Charleston, according to the center’s lead navigator.

S.C. Progressive Network’s Get Covered Surge Center opened Monday at Fountain Walk, at 360 Concord St. in downtown Charleston, in an office provided by the city of Charleston. The center, which will be open through Dec. 20, had 22 volunteers available on its first day to help residents sign up for health care through the Affordable Care Act.

Loreen Myerson, a paid navigator who is managing the center, said navigators spend an average of 20 hours completing online course work and exams in order to become certified.

“Our job is to talk to residents about how the Affordable Care Act works in South Carolina and how it applies to them and their family members,” Myerson said. “The volunteers are real believers, and they know that everyone deserves health care.”

She said estimates are that the center will enroll hundreds of citizens within the next three weeks.

Because the state decided not to administer its own marketplace for health insurance, the federal money that would have been designated for that went instead to nonprofit organizations to teach people how to enroll for benefits, Myerson said.

Three Columbia-based nonprofits — S.C. Progressive Network, The Cooperative Ministry and the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council — teamed up to form the Health Insurance Exchange Cooperative, according to Tim Liszewski, lead navigator for S.C. Progressive Network. He said the cooperative was given funding to train and employ navigators beginning in August.

Liszewski said it typically takes an hour for a navigator to discuss subsidies and go through the process of signing up a resident via the online portal or a paper application. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are preferred, to save time.

“For the past three weeks, the navigators have had success with the online process. That’s where our primary focus will be now,” Liszewski said. “My record is 47 minutes, from start to finish. A typical session is going to take a little longer.”

He said navigators from the network will be volunteering during an Affordable Healthcare Information Fair hosted by the cities of Charleston and North Charleston. The free event will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Charleston Area Convention Center in North Charleston.

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.

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