Blue Cross seeks higher rates for revived health plans
Posted November 19, 2013
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina formally asked state regulators Tuesday to resurrect health plans that were to be canceled because they don't meet minimum requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
The move would come at significant cost to consumers, however, as the insurer is seeking rate increases of 16 to 23 percent on the plans.
President Barack Obama last week granted a one-year exemption for such plans after an outcry from people who said their insurance was being canceled despite his repeated assurances that people who liked their coverage would be able to keep it under the new health care law.
More than 473,000 people in North Carolina were affected by the cancellations, including 227,400 Blue Cross customers, according to the state Department of Insurance.
Blue Cross President and Chief Executive Brad Wilson said reviving the plans provides customers "an additional option to consider as they weigh their health insurance choices for 2014."
"We absolutely feel like our customers are looking for another option. We're glad to be able to do that," said Barbara Morales Burke, Blue Cross' vice president of health policy.
The company said the higher rates reflect new taxes and fees under the Affordable Care Act, as well as the price of care and amount of medical services used by customers in those plans.
"Primarily, it's medical costs – the claims, a combination of increase in price of services, increase in utilization of these services," Morales Burke said in explaining the request for rate increases.
Blue Cross plans to mail revised renewal notices to eligible customers by Dec. 1, officials said. People can still shop around for other coverage, such as buying a plan through the federal online health exchange, where they estimate 40 percent of North Carolinians would qualify for federal subsidies to help pay premiums.
"We're waiting for the improvements (to the exchange) that the federal government has indicated will be made by the end of November," Morales Burke said. "So, in terms of functionality of it, we're just looking forward to seeing those improvements."