New health care option for South Carolinians

Consumer's Choice Grand Opening (John Gaddy/WCIV)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - A new health insurance co-op is headed to South Carolina.{}

Consumer's Choice Health Plan held a grand opening for its new headquarters Wednesday in North Charleston.{}{}

The goal of Consumer's Choice is to provide affordable health care plans to South Carolina residents. It will be the only member-governed, nonprofit health insurer in the state.

The plan was made possible by a bipartisan provision in the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted recently by President Obama. Congress created the program to foster more community-based health insurance companies.{}{}

Jerry Burgess is the president and CEO of Consumer's Choice. He said this provision in the PPACA is one of the good aspects of the recent health care reform in this country, because it is a private-market solution.{}{}

"It's not about the government. We're a private company run by other consumers who are private citizens, not the government. So this is really a bi-partisan deal."{}

He says this plan is different from any other plan in the state for one reason: It is run by average, working class residents.{}

"Our board of directors is not comprised of rich people. They are common people who are policy holders, who are elected by the other policy holders. So, my bosses are average people," Burgess explained. "Our goal is to offer affordable health insurance to individuals and small businesses."{}

Burgess said the company is well on its way to being fully up and running.{}{}

"We've got 12 months to put together all the components of a health insurance company. We're well on our way here at our new headquarters in Charleston."{}

Burgess says the Consumer's Choice plan will be accessible through the new Healthcare Exchange, or through private agents or brokers. Plans will be available for purchase beginning next year in Oct. 2013, for an effective coverage date of Jan. 1, 2014.{}

"The plan is going to benefit average folks. For example, people who are working, but don't have health insurance. Think of a single mom who works for a small company that doesn't offer health insurance. We think we'll benefit working class people like that," he said. "I think we'll be cheaper, more innovative, and we're not beholden to stockholders, we don't make a profit. We get to take our profits and lower the premiums. And that's what makes us different."{}

You can learn more about the Consumer's Choice plan here.