Trademark Attorney in John's Island, SC

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At Sausser Summers, PC, our goal is to make the trademark registration process as straightforward and cost-effective as possible, so that you can focus on growing your business while we take the necessary steps to protect what you have worked so hard to build.

Unlike other law firms, Sausser Summers, PC provides flat fee trademark services at an affordable price. Our goal is to eliminate the uncertainty that comes with hourly work, so you know exactly how much your total expenses will be at the outset of our relationship.

With a BBB A+ rating, we are consistently ranked as one of the top trademark law firms in the U.S. We aim to provide you with the same five-star service that you would receive from large firms, with a modern twist at a rate that won’t break the bank.

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How Sausser Summers, PC Flat Fee Trademark Service Works

Our flat fee trademark process is simple, streamlined, and consists of three steps:

Our three-step process lets you:

Trademark Services at a Glance

Whether you need help maintaining your current trademark or require assistance canceling an abandoned mark, Sausser Summers, PC is here to help. Here are just a few of the trademark services that we provide to clients:

Comprehensive Trademark Search

For many entrepreneurs, this is the first and most crucial step to take when it’s time to safeguard your business and intellectual property. Your trademark attorney in John's Island will conduct a thorough search of the USPTO Federal Trademark Database and each U.S state’s trademark database. We will also perform a trademark domain name search and a trademark common law search on your behalf. We will follow up with a 30-minute phone call, where we will discuss the results of our trademark search and send you a drafted legal opinion letter.

U.S. Trademark Filing

Once your trademark lawyer in John's Island has completed a comprehensive trademark search, the next step is to file a trademark application. We will submit your application within 1-3 business days and keep you updated on its USPTO status throughout the registration process.

U.S Trademark Office Actions – These actions are essentially initial rejections of your trademark by the USPTO. Applicants have six months in which to respond to this rejection. For a flat fee, your trademark lawyer from Sausser Summers, PC will compose

U.S Trademark Renewal

If you already own a trademark, Sausser Summers, PC will renew your registered trademark so that it remains current. Extended protection varies depending on how long you have held your trademark. We encourage you to visit our U.S Trademark Renewal page to find out which renewal service best fits your current situation.

U.S. Trademark Cease & Desist

Whether you have been accused of infringing on someone’s trademark and received a cease and desist letter or have found an infringer on your own mark, it is imperative that you respond. If you have received a letter and do not respond, you might be sued. If you find an infringer and do not demand that they stop, you may lose your trademark rights. To discuss the best course of action for your situation, we recommend you contact Sausser Summers, PC, for a risk-free consultation at no additional cost. Once you speak directly to one of our attorneys, we will send your cease and desist letter or respond to the one you have received for an affordable flat fee.

Statement of Use

If you plan on using your mark in commerce, you must file a Statement of Use to notify the USPTO. This filing must take place six months after you receive your Notice of Allowance. For an affordable flat-rate fee, your trademark attorney in John's Island will make any requisite filings on your behalf. Before you decide on a course of action, we encourage you to contact our office at (843) 654-0078 to speak with one of our attorneys. This consultation will help us get a better understanding of your situation and is always free and confidential.

U.S. Trademark Filing of Name and Logo

I Have a Word Mark & Logo!

*USPTO filing fee of $250 for one international class is included, as mentioned above. Additional fees will apply if multiple classes. If you have any questions about the total cost please contact us prior to submitting this form.

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Latest News in John's Island, SC

Oak trees in the crosshairs of development on Johns Island

Nearly 200 historic trees on Johns Island were on the chopping block at a Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Dec. 7, and the debate surrounding their removal is stirring up questions about preserving the island’s natural habitat while planning for booming population growth at the city’s outer edges.Developers requested permission to cut down 193 “grand” trees across two developments in cases heard before the board, which reviews projects that need special exceptions to city ordinances.The grand c...

Nearly 200 historic trees on Johns Island were on the chopping block at a Charleston Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Dec. 7, and the debate surrounding their removal is stirring up questions about preserving the island’s natural habitat while planning for booming population growth at the city’s outer edges.

Developers requested permission to cut down 193 “grand” trees across two developments in cases heard before the board, which reviews projects that need special exceptions to city ordinances.

The grand classification means the trees are more than 24 inches in diameter, likely indicating that they are well over 100 years old. As a result, they are protected by city ordinance. Not only are the trees considered an aesthetic trademark of the once entirely rural island but they are also a key component of the area’s ecosystem and a natural flood prevention tool.

“The trees help us for resilience, absorbing water, supplying shade and wildlife habitat,” John Zlogar, chair of the community group Johns Island Task Force, told The Post and Courier. He is one of nearly 30 residents who submitted comments to the zoning board in favor of saving as many trees as possible amid development.

Final decisions

The board ultimately approved both tree removal plans with some caveats.

Developers of the first project, a 71-home planned community near Fenwick Hall Plantation, requested permission to cut down 21 trees. The zoning appeals board reduced that to 15. They also stipulated that the developers of the property must hire an arborist to create a protection plan for the remaining trees and plant 151 new native trees with at least a 2½-inch diameter.

The developers argued that after having an arborist evaluate the trees on the property, the ones slated for removal were already in poor health.

“We designed the proposed concept plan which ultimately preserves 36 grand trees and impacts grand trees only with a health grade ‘D’ or lower,” wrote Jenna Nelson in a letter to the zoning board. Nelson leads the development’s engineering team, Bowman Consulting Group.

If those trees fell naturally, however, they would have returned organic matter to the ecosystem, promoting other forms of plant life that provide food for animals and insects, said Philip Dustan, an ecology professor at the College of Charleston.

“When (the tree) falls down. it slowly rots and releases its nutrients,” he said.

Tree removals at the second project on Johns Island, called Wooddale, were also approved by the board. Instead of removing 172 trees as originally requested, the developers revised the plan to remove 124. They must also develop a protection plan for the remaining trees and plant about 500 native 2½-inch or wider trees. They also have plans to establish a conservation easement along the southern portion of the property, meaning it will be protected from development moving forward.

“Multiple layout alternatives have been explored by following the natural contours of the site by placing most of the density in the highest area to minimize the cut and fill needed as well as minimize the tree and environmental impacts,” wrote Jason Hutchinson, an engineer for the development with firm Thomas & Hutton.

The Wooddale project has been in the works since 2013 because of a lawsuit that hinged on disagreements between the city and the developer about how to zone the development. As proposed, it includes single-family homes, offices, an assisted-living facility and other amenities, according to site plans. Because it is south of the island’s urban growth boundary, it is subject to stricter limitations than the northern tip of the island. The boundary was established decades ago as a way to preserve the island’s rural origins.

The Woodale tract sits not too far away from Charleston Executive Airport where conservationists secured a win earlier this year. The Charleston County Aviation Authority signed off on a deal to place just under 100 acres in a legally binding conservation easement. An agreement with Lowcountry Land Trust will keep 94 acres from ever being developed there.

As growth continues within the boundary’s limits, some residents are trying to advocate for developments with as little ecological impact as possible on the southern side of the boundary line.

Dustan, who lives near Wooddale, is not pleased with the upcoming development. The most ecologically sensitive solution, he said, would be to build elevated homes on pilings and keep all the existing trees intact.

By removing the native trees, the surrounding area is robbed of parts of a centuries-old root network, which can affect the health of surrounding trees.

“A lot of the trees that you see are actually related to each other,” he said.

Although the development follows the city’s storm water standards, Dustan is concerned that runoff created by the new development will overflow nearby Burden Creek during major ran events.

After hurricane Ian came through in September, water was about a foot below breaching the banks of the creek, he said.

“The curious thing is ... if we keep building like this, we might start flooding the new communities, too,” he said.

Procedural changes

Johns Island is seeing a massive influx of growth in ways that is not possible in more developed areas of the city. As a result, the island is seeing a patchwork of new developments separated by stretches of farmland and forests. Longtime residents want to see the city use modern planning tools to lessen the impact of new development on the environment and flooding.

“The area inside the urban growth boundary is only 20 percent of the island, let’s contain the growth in that 20 percent to make sure it’s smart,” Zlogar said.

A citywide water plan, which is currently in the works, will look at the city as a whole to see what types of flood mitigation are needed most and where they would have the most impact. Instead of tackling flood concerns on a project-by-project basis, the city is looking at ways to stop development that increases flooding and identify which flood projects need to be prioritized first.

Instead of trying to drain water as quickly as possible, the city’s main strategy is shifting toward effectively storing floodwater, such as in detention basins, and letting it slowly disperse. One advantage of this approach is that it helps prevent a sinking effect called subsidence. Shifting ground levels due to the movement of groundwater threaten buildings’ foundations and worsen flood risk. Forrest are a natural asset in this type of flood prevention, Dustan said.

“The best way to solve a problem is preventing it from happening in the first place,” he said.

The water plan will be worked into a new citywide zoning ordinance that Charleston officials are also currently drafting.

In the new version, officials want the zoning maps — the guide for what can get built where — to be based on elevation. High ground near major roadways will be fair game for high-density development, in most cases. Low-lying areas and wetlands will be restricted to little or no use at all. The ground rules for development will vary in each area of town. It’s an opportunity to set the framework for how Johns Island can grow in a sustainable way.

As these changes come down the pipeline, Johns Island residents will also have a new advocate in City Hall.

From 2010 to 2020, census data shows the island’s population within Charleston city limits doubled from nearly 5,300 residents to almost 12,000. As a result, in recently approved City Council redistricting maps, Johns Island will get its own council member for the first time in 2024.

How the city approaches tree preservation will need to be tailored to Johns Island, too, Zlogar said. The existing tree ordinance was designed with more developed areas of the city, such as the peninsula, in mind. There, developers are typically requesting to remove one or two trees in an already built-out neighborhood. But on Johns Island, developers are purchasing lots with upwards of 100 acres of land.

“We have a tree ordinance but to my knowledge there is no forest ordinance and that is the problem,” Zlogar said.

Every tree removed affects the overall ecosystem of a forest. And replanting smaller trees, even of the same variety, doesn’t have the same ecological benefit.

“It’s the equivalent of tearing down an apartment building and putting up a woodshed,” he said.

The other concern from Dustan and other community members is that the tree ordinance does not take a holistic view of the island. Saving contiguous swaths of forest is more effective strategy than saving groups of trees on a lot-by-lot basis. Having interrupted clusters of forest reduces storm water absorption and splits up wildlife habitats as well.

“We’re not seeing the forest for the trees,” Dustan said.

Reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.

Price tag for extending I-526 across Johns Island reduced slightly, to $2.2B

Charleston County has received a reduced cost estimate for the long-planned and controversial Mark Clark Extension project, but it’s a price tag that would still leave the county responsible for paying $1.78 billion.That’s about five times the county’s yearly general fund budget.Several council members who support finishing the Interstate 526 loop said the most likely path toward paying for it would be another half-percent sale tax increase that would require local voter approval.“We just have to ...

Charleston County has received a reduced cost estimate for the long-planned and controversial Mark Clark Extension project, but it’s a price tag that would still leave the county responsible for paying $1.78 billion.

That’s about five times the county’s yearly general fund budget.

Several council members who support finishing the Interstate 526 loop said the most likely path toward paying for it would be another half-percent sale tax increase that would require local voter approval.

“We just have to be willing to move forward and do it,” Councilwoman Jenny Honeycutt said. “Every day I get more and more calls.”

The project would create a 9½-mile, four-lane road from the current end of I-526 in West Ashley, to Johns Island and then onto James Island with a connection to the end of the James Island connector at Folly Road.

Most of the road would be elevated, with a proposed speed limit between 35 and 45 mph.

The marginally better cost estimate was delivered by S.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Christy Hall in a letter to the county. The previous price tag was estimated at $2.35 billion, while the new estimate that followed a consultant’s study came in at $2.2 billion.

“I think initially there was some thought that maybe we have overinflated the numbers,” Hall said.

When the higher cost estimate came out in May, Bradly Taggart, co-founder of Charlestonians for I-526, told County Council members that a temporary spike in commodity prices was likely to blame. He predicted that “we could be looking at a project that costs half as much in six months’ time as the market rebalances.”

Instead, the estimate dropped by less than 7 percent.

Hall said the estimated $150 million reduction came mainly from reducing the cost of potential “risk elements” — surprises during construction, such as unplanned conflicts with utilities or unexpected poor soil conditions — and partly from reducing expected cost inflation.

“This estimate has built into it every possible contingency for things that could go wrong,” said Honeycutt, who said she thinks the actual cost will be lower.

Hall asked the county to develop “a financial plan that is rational and realistic” for the entire road project, which would be required in order to get final approval for an environmental review from the federal government. She also asked the county to approve $150 million in preliminary work, with the county paying half that cost, to keep the plan moving forward.

Honeycutt and Council Chairman Teddie Pryor both said they favor a new half-percent sales tax referendum as the best way to pay the cost. County voters previously approved two such sales tax increases, mostly to fund road projects.

Pryor said if there were another referendum, it could be entirely dedicated to funding the Mark Clark Extension. The most recent sales tax increase, following a 2016 referendum, was expected to raise $1.89 billion for specified road projects in the county, over 25 years.

The county received the new cost estimate for the Mark Clark Extension on Dec. 2, a spokesperson said, and has not had time to discuss it. The earlier higher estimate was delivered to the county in May.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” Councilman Henry Darby said at the time. “I would never, ever go with this.”

The Mark Clark Extension has lots of support, including the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the city of Charleston and the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors, but also lots of opposition. The Coastal Conservation League said in May that the multibillion-dollar price tag “is a perfect opportunity for Charleston County Council to walk away from this project.”

A community organization called Nix 526 has also been fighting the extension, and Charleston Waterkeeper and the S.C. Wildlife Federation have raised objections.

Supporters say it’s necessary for traffic relief and possible hurricane evacuations, while opponents say it will increase development on Johns Island and harm the environment while providing little traffic relief at great cost.

New roads tend to provide traffic relief for a time but also spur development. The existing portion of I-526 from North Charleston to Mount Pleasant initially provided traffic relief and a new hurricane evacuation option, but it also accelerated development in northern Mount Pleasant and on Daniel Island. The state is currently planning to spend about $4 billion to widen that part of the interstate.

Here are some numbers to put $1.78 billion in context:

The S.C. Department of Transportation assumes that if the Mark Clark Extension project goes forward, litigation could delay it by two or three years.

Pryor blamed opponents for the rising costs of the project, and said it could have been built for far less years or decades ago. In 2015, the cost estimate was $725 million.

Unlike the even-more-expensive plans to widen and improve the existing sections of I-526 — for about $7 billion — the state in 2019 limited its contribution to the Mark Clark Extension project to $420 million and the county agreed to finance the rest.

“Our interstate program is focused on upgrading our existing interstates,” said Hall, and those plans are focused on moving freight and aiding commerce. The state is pursuing plans to widen all or portions of interstates 526, 26 and 95, and to redesign multiple interchanges.

County Council is expected to discuss options for the Mark Clark Extension at a future meeting. Hall did not put a deadline on her request for action.

Johns Island affordable housing complex $2M short as state tightens belt on tax credits

A 72-unit senior affordable housing development on Johns Island is running into funding hurdles due to recent changes in state tax-credit policies.Developers are about $2 million short of the $22 million project budget because state legislators recently took action to limit spending on such projects.In May, Gov. Henry McMaster signed House Bill 5075 into law, reforming the state-low income housing tax- credit system. It put a cap on the program, stating that South Carolina can’t allocate more than $20 million worth of tax...

A 72-unit senior affordable housing development on Johns Island is running into funding hurdles due to recent changes in state tax-credit policies.

Developers are about $2 million short of the $22 million project budget because state legislators recently took action to limit spending on such projects.

In May, Gov. Henry McMaster signed House Bill 5075 into law, reforming the state-low income housing tax- credit system. It put a cap on the program, stating that South Carolina can’t allocate more than $20 million worth of tax credits to affordable housing developments each year.

Among other changes, it stated that the amount of tax credits that an individual project receives is based on whatever the anticipated cost of the project is when it is first proposed, not when it breaks ground. If, after going through months to years of approval processes, the estimated total cost of the project goes up, the amount of tax credits allocated to the project when construction begins will not increase.

That’s what caused the funding gap for the Johns Island complex, developer of the project Raymond Nix said.

“It can be 18 months between when you apply for tax credits and the time you are breaking ground,” he said.

The new method of calculating state tax credits is a departure from the previous process. Under the same program at the federal level and under the prior version of the state program, once a project broke ground, it would receive tax credits based on its most up-to-date cost estimate.

Inflation, increased construction costs and other factors meant that the developers had to recalculate the total cost of the Johns Island project before breaking ground. But the tax credits received from the state won’t reflect those cost increases.

“The (state law) adjustment resulted in a $1.7 million hole in the project immediately,” Nix said.

Nix, president of Nix Development Co., gave a presentation to the Charleston City Council’s Community Development Committee on Nov. 17, asking if the city is able to step in and fill the project’s funding gap.

The 72-unit development, called Esau Jenkins Village, is located at Maybank Highway and Bohicket Road. It will be run by Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care Corp. The nonprofit, which has an office in front of the 7-acre development site, operates programs for senior citizens and disabled people in parts of Charleston and Colleton counties.

The construction site abuts a nearly 19-acre undeveloped tract owned by Angel Oak Park LLC. The city of Charleston owns 6.5 acres around the Angel Oak Tree and nearly 8 acres are owned by St. Johns Church.

An existing 88-unit, single-story, subsidized housing complex affiliated with Sea Island Comprehensive is across the highway.

Nix and other leaders of the project are seeking funding from local governments and nonprofits to fill the $2 million shortfall.

The city of Charleston hasn’t taken any action yet. Officials indicated an interest in helping it get across the finish line if other funding avenues don’t pan out. But the Esau Jenkins Development isn’t the only one of its kind seeking more funding.

“Quite honestly, this has probably been the fifth request that we’ve had to help with gap financing as a result of state housing change in legislation,” said Geona Shaw Johnson, Charleston housing director.

Nix said he’s aware that he’s not the only developer seeking out assistance after facing unanticipated costs. Even projects that have already broken ground are having to adjust their funding sources, he said.

“I would argue that any affordable housing developer that you call right now is grappling with this same issue except for ones that were just recently awarded funding,” he said.

The tax-credit program, called Workforce and Senior Affordable Housing Act, was originally approved during the state’s 2019-20 legislative session. It was designed as a way to provide a first-of-its-kind, state-level affordable housing tax credit that would match federal housing tax credits to help get affordable housing proposals to viability.

Lawmakers saw it as a bargain. According to a fiscal impact statement associated with the bill, state analysts anticipated the credit would cost the state roughly $16 million in annual revenue by the 10th year of the program, all while filling a significant hole in the state’s housing stock.

Affordable housing advocates credit the program with spurring the development of nearly 9,600 units across the state in just two years. But it was also unsustainable, fiscal hawks argued, with the number of applicants far exceeding the anticipated number of credits lawmakers thought they were agreeing to.

The original cost estimates, based off of historical demands for state affordable housing credits, were well off the mark.

According to a 2021 memo from Frank Rainwater, executive director of the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, the state treasury was on pace to issue more than $50 million in tax credits in 2021 alone, with an anticipated impact of $5.16 billion to the state’s general fund over the next 20 years.

Tax-credit applications were put on hold at the beginning of 2022 while lawmakers hashed out the details of the reform bill that ultimately capped the program’s annual spending.

Reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.

Lowcounty Land Trust acquires McClellanville property holding iconic Deerhead Oak

MCCLELLANVILLE — A centuries-old oak tree spanning about 30 feet in circumference at its trunk has become an iconic landmark in McClellanville.Plans are underway to place the property under a conservation easement so the town can own it.The Lowcountry Land Trust acquired the single-acre parcel this fall that holds the Deerhead Oak. Its base sits at the intersection of Pinckney and Oak streets.Funds from the Charleston County Greenbelt Program and the landowner made the arrangement possible.Named for an image...

MCCLELLANVILLE — A centuries-old oak tree spanning about 30 feet in circumference at its trunk has become an iconic landmark in McClellanville.

Plans are underway to place the property under a conservation easement so the town can own it.

The Lowcountry Land Trust acquired the single-acre parcel this fall that holds the Deerhead Oak. Its base sits at the intersection of Pinckney and Oak streets.

Funds from the Charleston County Greenbelt Program and the landowner made the arrangement possible.

Named for an image formed by its branches, this special tree is the subject of artwork, murals and poetry in McClellanville, a news release said. The massive Deerhead Oak is bigger-bellied than the Angel Oak on Johns Island and taller too.

William Peter Beckman, a Confederate soldier who was stationed in McClellanville, opened a store in the tree’s shade at the close of the Civil War, according to reports. The town grew from his door.

The Deerhead Oak never stopped growing, either.

McClellanville Mayor Rutledge B. Leland III said the land has been passed down by members of the Beckman family since they opened the the town’s first store.

The Martin family in McClellanville has owned the property since the 1870s and has welcomed generations of residents and visitors to the tree.

“We are grateful for their (Beckman/Martin family) stewardship of the land and are honored to continue to preserve the park for generations to come,” Leland said in a news release.

In 2007, the Deerhead was named Heritage Tree of the Year by the S.C. Urban and Community Forestry Council for its cultural significance.

East Cooper Land Trust, now merged with Lowcountry Land Trust, started the work with the Martins years ago to conserve the Deerhead Oak property. Its former board chair, Justin Craig, recognizes the land as an area that brings people together and “defines our sense of place.”

“Land holds stories and connects people,” said Lowcountry Land Trust president and CEO Ashley Demosthenes. “Nowhere does that hold truer than a place like the Deer Head Oak.”

The land trust expects to transfer ownership of the property to the town in early 2023.

Free medical clinic seeking new patients in Charleston’s hospitality industry

Providing benefits like time off and health insurance for hourly workers is a relatively new concept at Charleston restaurants and hotels. Many still do not offer these services for non-salaried employees.Through its Hospitality Inclusion Project Initiative, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic on Johns Island is helping fill a statewide coverage gap by providing free health care, referrals, emergency care and some prescription services to qualifying uninsured hospi...

Providing benefits like time off and health insurance for hourly workers is a relatively new concept at Charleston restaurants and hotels. Many still do not offer these services for non-salaried employees.

Through its Hospitality Inclusion Project Initiative, the Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic on Johns Island is helping fill a statewide coverage gap by providing free health care, referrals, emergency care and some prescription services to qualifying uninsured hospitality workers in downtown Charleston, though you don’t have to be a hospitality worker to be eligible to receive regular clinic care.

Those who live or work on Johns Island, James Island, Wadmalaw Island, Folly Beach, Meggett, Ravenel, Hollywood and Walterboro can also receive care at the clinic.

“We want to make a medical home for them,” said BIFMC Medical Director Dr. David Peterseim.

What exactly does that mean? According to Peterseim, clinic nurses and doctors want to establish care with their patients and see them regularly. In addition to primary care, patients have access to doctors in 19 subspecialties, such as cardiology and gynecology. The clinic’s strategic partnership with Roper St. Francis Healthcare means patients can get free lab tests, cancer screenings and X-rays, along with emergency care at Roper, as long as they are enrolled before the emergency.

“You’ve got a quarterback and a quarterback with all kinds of support from pharmacy to radiology to invasive procedures that are all waiting to see what you need next,” Peterseim said. “You don’t have to chase the emergency room bill that’s going to come if you weren’t enrolled.”

A certified nonprofit, BIFMC’s workforce includes nine paid employees and 130 volunteers, including nurses, nurse practitioners and doctors.

“‘What’s the catch?’ is what some people think,” Peterseim said. “There is no bill generated from any care that’s delivered from the 37 doctors that work here every month.”

The center was opened in 2008 by two retired doctors, Arthur Booth and Charlie Davis, who wanted to establish a clinic that could treat working adults. Initially serving the Johns Island community and surrounding islands, BIFMC in 2018 opened a new clinic across the parking lot from the old one. With this state-of-the-art facility that has the look and feel of a normal outpatient doctor’s office, BIFMC has since expanded its areas of coverage, leading about 1,000 patients to its doors each year.

A member of the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, BIFMC follows the 299 percent poverty guidelines when deciding who qualifies for care. Uninsured individuals aged 18 to 65 in BIFMC’s service area must earn less than $40,634 annually to qualify, while couples who make $54,746 can visit the clinic. (Each additional person in a household adds $14,112 to the upward limit.) Patients must qualify every year.

BIFMC’s patient population was at an all-time high prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Clinic Director Brenda Falls, who said they’re biggest obstacle is raising awareness that they are there. With seven exam rooms, BIFMC has room to nearly double its capacity.

“We were just making a lot of traction, seeing some of our highest numbers that we’d ever seen, and then COVID hit,” Falls said. “If you’re not constantly creating awareness then people really don’t know that we’re here.”

“One of the biggest obstacles to getting patients is adults not realizing they’re eligible,” said Carrie Moores, BIFMC director of Development and Communications. “In my mind, those who work in the hospitality industry are kind of the perfect example of a person who would qualify in a clinic like ours.”

BIFMC can be a resource for the more than 100,000 South Carolinians who fall in the insurance coverage gap.

A decade has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court first upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, but the court did so with a caveat. One of ACA’s central tenets — an expansion of the low-income Medicaid program to cover all adults who fall below the federal poverty line — became optional, with the court deciding states could not be compelled to participate in Medicaid expansion. Many states immediately decided the deal was too good to turn down, while several others, including South Carolina, opted out. The Palmetto State remains one of 11 states that have yet to expand the Medicaid program.

“Typically these lower income adults who rely on our services do not receive healthcare benefits via their place of employment, or they work multiple part time jobs without the benefits of any one full time employment. This is particularly true among those in hospitality,” Moores said. “I would say around 75 percent of our patients currently work at least one job, with many working as many as two to three jobs and still cannot afford to access health care.”

Many of the clinic’s volunteers are retired doctors who still have the urge to help those in need. Peterseim, who previously worked as a heart and lung surgeon at Roper for 15 years, was inspired to do more volunteer work after temporarily living with his family in Costa Rica, where he was performing surgeries at a free clinic.

“There are a lot of people that need care, so I got more involved in this project,” Peterseim said.

Some volunteers are active providers, including a dermatologist who closes their private practice every other week to work at BIFMC, while others are using their clinic work as a technical training ground as they pursue careers in medicine.

Diana Osorio has spent 165 hours caring for patients at BIFMC, work that will soon help her become a full-time nurse practitioner.

“You see everything from just regular visits to, ‘You need to go to the emergency room today,’” Osorio said. “What we do here is so meaningful to the patients that we see.”

Prospective patients can learn more about the clinic and fill out an application at bifmc.org.

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