Health Team

NC Chamber opens own insurance exchange; federal site upgraded

Posted October 11, 2013
Updated November 4, 2013

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— The same day that the website that handles health insurance enrollment for much of the country launched a critical upgrade, the North Carolina Chamber announced that it would offer its own insurance exchange for companies statewide.

People shopping for health coverage have been stymied for more than a week by the site, which crashed Oct. 1 when state health exchanges opened nationwide under the Affordable Care Act. Federal officials have made various software and system upgrades in recent days to improve service, and they rolled out a major change Friday to address a key criticism of the site.

Previously, everyone had to create an account on the site before they could browse through the various insurance options available to them. Officials said the accounts gave people a better idea of the overall cost of coverage under different health plans because it would factor in any federal subsidies they could receive, but critics said the account requirement simply created a bottleneck on the site.

Now, people can check out all of the insurance options provided through their state's exchange without first creating an account, although the site notes that the prices shown don't reflect any subsidies.

Meanwhile, the N.C. Chamber said nationwide health care payment and benefit technology company CieloStar would operate its private insurance exchange. No insurers have signed up yet to offer plans through the exchange, and quotes won't be available until mid-November.

Private exchanges are geared toward employers, rather than individuals, and they don't provide the subsidies the government is offering to some people through They may, however, offer dental, vision and other benefits not included in policies on the public exchanges.

NC Chamber private insurance exchange website Private insurance exchanges ramp up in NC

"This is simply an option," said Jim Simpson, chief operating officer of the N.C. Chamber. "If (someone) can find a better deal somewhere else, have at it. Ultimately, what we don't want is an employer deciding between, 'Do I need to offer this benefit, or do i need to offer this job?'"

Simpson said fewer companies are picking a one-size-fits-all health insurance plan for their employees. Rather, they provide employees an annual allowance and let them choose a health plan that suits their needs.

The idea is to allow employers to rein in health care costs and give employees flexibility and choice, he said.

Digital Benefit Advisors, a national consulting company, also plans to offer a private insurance exchange in North Carolina, starting Nov. 7.


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  • UNCW23 Oct 15, 2013

    The Plans sold on any exchange has to meet the same mandates as set forth in the ACA. The ACA sets rules for insurance market, not exchanges!

  • whatelseisnew Oct 14, 2013

    ""fiscal responsibility" means "waste more taxpayer money" "MORAL obligation" means "immoral people wasting taxpayer money"

    Just in case you need a dictionary."

    Yeah I find it interesting that people who want to steal from person A and give what they have stolen to person b, claim some kind of moral superiority. Slavery is alive and well.

  • whatelseisnew Oct 14, 2013

    "It will be several years before anyone knows if the ACA increased costs MORE than they would have increased in the mess we already had with U.S. healthcare."

    The overall COST WILL be more. Government has added billions upon billions of new costs to the system and most of that new cost provides NO healthcare, it just adds complexity and cost.
    As to whether the cost increases will be more with ACA vs without ACA, there will never be a way to know that. With all the cost shifting, I expect it will be more unless Government gets really nuts and inflicts actual price controls, something that ALWAYS fails.

  • wayneboyd Oct 14, 2013

    Quote."Anytime you attempt to pay someone else to assume your responsibility, one of two things are always going to happen...the service will become so expensive you can't afford it, or the service will become so slouchy you can't stand it...My Dad

  • LKG-Lover Oct 14, 2013

    Hopefuuly the NC Chamber exchanges will offer customizable plans. The ACA plans have benefits not needed or wanted by some groups of people and this drives up the cost. There's no reason a married couple in their 50's needs pregancy coverage, yet we see this kind of thing included because it is mandated by the ACA! This is one of the biggest complaints about the ACA.

  • Monkey_Joe Oct 14, 2013

    "fiscal responsibility" means "waste more taxpayer money"
    "MORAL obligation" means "immoral people wasting taxpayer money"

    Just in case you need a dictionary.

  • elcid liked Ike Oct 14, 2013

    TGIV - I agree. Employer provided healthcare is a side-effect of World War II wage and price controls. During that period, employers couldn't use wages to attract desperately needed workers from the limited pool of labor that was available (since wages were controlled and all of their competitors were paying the exact same wage).

    So this loophole was created - companies couldn't PAY workers more, but they could hand out benefits like employer provided healthcare to entice those workers to choose them over a competitor, and they did.

    It was never intended to be a long-term state of affairs, and indeed Congress attempted to undo it in the early 1950s, but by then people had become accustomed to it and the public outcry killed any chance of getting rid of it.

  • tgiv Oct 14, 2013

    There never has been any such thing as a free lunch. I do know that health care costs have increased at double digit rates every year for the last 17 years at the small business I work for.

    It will be several years before anyone knows if the ACA increased costs MORE than they would have increased in the mess we already had with U.S. healthcare. At this stage, it appears that the cost impact will vary significantly based on what companies already offer and the wage profile of their employees.

    In truth, employers should not even be involved in health care beyond collecting payroll deductions. None of the companies that we compete with internationally are carrying this burden. Whoever came up with the idea that employers should provide health care coverage should be boiled in his own pudding. This is a social issue, not a workplace issue.

  • elcid liked Ike Oct 14, 2013

    "The cost with the subsidy was the same EXCEPT the person getting the subsidy would pay 400 dollars of the cost with the rest being picked up by someone else. Essentially this is THEFT and it is absolutely despicable." - whatelseisnew

    How is this any different than people who receive health coverage from their employer paying a nominal percentage of the cost (average for single people is around 18% of total premium cost; for families it's around 25%)?

    The employer then claims the costs as a tax deduction, reducing taxable income and federal taxes paid. The best estimates that I can find indicate that this causes Treasury to forgo about $250 billion in potential tax revenue from employers each year.

    That burden simply gets shifted to upper bracket taxpayers.

    Short version: somebody else is picking up the tab for the bulk of your health care too. I never cease to be amazed at the ways people can find to assert that "my free lunch is different from your free lunch."

  • whatelseisnew Oct 11, 2013

    "If you have to wonder if they're just giving cover for employers that want to dump their promised HC benefits onto the back of their workers and the American public. if the stipends equal the current percentage they are offering then perhaps I'm wrong. If not, nice smokescreen."

    You should really go through that law and attempt to gain an understanding of what this is doing to employers. It is significantly driving up costs. Now set aside what it is. Imagine you own a business and one of your cost points is going to go up significantly, lets say, fuel costs. Would you NOT look at ways to save on that, maybe figure out how to use less fuel, or maybe as airlines do for example, sign multi-year price agreements. Health Insurance IS NOT any different. If the costs are being significantly increased, businesses have to address it. Even governments are cutting employee work hours to keep them on part time status. Despite bizarre beliefs, there is NO free lunch.