Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash

South Carolina is leading the nation in new enrollments for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to the latest update from the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

During the first four weeks of spring’s special enrollment period, the number of residents in South Carolina signing up for new plans was 316% higher than the same period in 2020, and nearly 400% higher than in 2019, according to a press release from Palmetto Project.

“The ACA was custom-designed for states like South Carolina with large numbers of citizens with low and moderate paying jobs,” Steve Skardon, executive director of Palmetto Project, said in a press release. “We depend heavily on small businesses, and people who are self-employed or work multiple part-time jobs. The ACA is the only way they can gain access to high-quality, private health insurance.”

In 2019, 3,226 S.C. residents selected a health plan under the ACA between Feb. 15 and March 15, according to the HHS The number increased to 3,769 the following year, and to 15,666 in 2021, thanks in part to the new American Rescue Plan Act, which includes no-cost premiums and expanded eligibility for financial assistance.

Palmetto Project has been a driving force of education and enrollment efforts in the state since 2013. “When people know the facts and the truth of the ability to enroll, that really helps,” Palmetto Project Director Shelli Quenga told the City Paper in a February report.

Alabama saw the second-highest growth in the country, with a 289% increase in new plan selections between 2020 and 2021, followed by Mississippi and Georgia.

Palmetto Project started the country’s first statewide nonprofit insurance agency in 2018, giving coverage to more than 2,500 South Carolinians in the last year.