BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina to open new retail center in Columbia

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina plans to help Columbia residents better navigate the Affordable Care Act as it celebrates the grand opening of its retail center this Saturday.

The health insurance carrier will open its third retail center to offer customers an in-person experience when choosing insurance. The center also will provide health and wellness programs.

The South Carolina BLUE retail center will open at 1260 Bower Parkway in the Columbiana Station shopping center. The grand opening will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We’re making a concerted effort to reach out to the individual consumer by providing a comfortable, face-to-face experience in a retail setting. Purchasing insurance can be complex and confusing, especially to first-time buyers. This Columbia store is part of our statewide strategy to take health insurance retail on a year-round basis,” said Terry Peace, senior vice president of small group and individual insurance.

The center will guide customers through the enrollment process for the company’s ACA-approved under-65 and over-65 policies insured by BlueCross or by its subsidiary company, BlueChoice HealthPlan of South Carolina.

Lifestyle classes and informational seminars also will be available and include financial planning seminars, healthy cooking seminars and Zumba fitness classes. Most of the classes will be free, with some exceptions, and all will be open to the public.

Visitors who attend Saturday’s opening can find more information about insurance plans while partaking in the festivities, which will include food, giveaways, a balloon artist, a photo booth, a jump castle, games and other activities. University of South Carolina mascot Cocky will be on hand for photo ops. and Santa Claus is also expected to make an appearance.

The South Carolina BLUE mobile unit will be on site to assist customers with health insurance options.

Open enrollment for the federal ACA insurance plans continues until March 31, but policies purchased by Dec. 23 will be effective Jan. 1. The federal government has faced criticism for its management of the insurance marketplace, particularly systemic problems with the enrollment website. Since Oct. 1, about 365,000 people have signed up for insurance through the federal exchange or one of several state-run exchanges.

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