Local Politics

NC rushes on deadline for online insurance market

Posted November 9, 2012

— North Carolina officials scurried Friday ahead of a looming deadline for a new one-stop shop to help people buy affordable health insurance. The federal government will run the exchanges in states that are not ready or willing.

Gov. Beverly Perdue was conferring with advisers, while Gov.-elect Pat McCrory planned a conference call with other state chief executives, who are facing a deadline of next Friday to submit an outline for an online health insurance marketplace, spokesmen for both said. McCrory, a Republican, takes over for Perdue, a Democrat, in January.

Neither Perdue's office nor staff for the General Assembly's leaders provided an official able to discuss options the state is considering. Perdue was consulting with McCrory and state Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin about what to do, Perdue spokeswoman Christine Mackey said.

"We are determining which option would serve in the best interest of North Carolina families and taxpayers," Mackey said.

McCrory said Thursday that there's "total confusion" among states about how to approach the deadline. He urged federal officials to provide more information so states can make informed choices.

The scramble is over producing a blueprint for the state's health benefit exchange, a one-stop marketplace of private health plans for those who now have the hardest time finding coverage. The exchange is intended to make it easier to buy the insurance most people will be required to have beginning in 2014 or face paying a penalty under the Obama administration's health reform law.

The law's goal is reducing the number of state residents under age 65 who were without health insurance in 2010. That number stood at 1.6 million, according to the latest estimate by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine.

A recent check by The Associated Press found 16 states and the District of Columbia on track to setting up their own exchanges, while nine have decided they will not. The federal government could end up running the new markets in half or more of the states.

North Carolina lawmakers started work in 2011 on creating an exchange, but progress stalled as Republican leaders waited to see if the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. The court cleared the law in June, days before lawmakers wrapped up their two-year session.

After President Barack Obama was re-elected this week, North Carolina was among dozens of states in a last-minute scramble to produce a blueprint for a statewide exchange where households and small businesses will shop for private coverage. GOP governors in Virginia and Georgia have indicated they'll default to Washington to set up the market in their states.

The Obama administration is also offering a partnership option in which states not fully prepared to run one of the new markets will run some functions and Washington others.

That's likely to be North Carolina's route until the General Assembly returns to Raleigh next year and hashes out what an insurance exchange would look like, said Adam Linker, a policy analyst with the Health Access Coalition, part of the liberal-leaning North Carolina Justice Center.

"They've sort of allowed this hybrid until states can meet and think about what kind of exchange they want," Linker said. "The idea is you can do that and then sort of transition to a state based exchange."

Although the Legislature did not pass legislation creating an exchange, it did state its intent to create one and directed the state Insurance Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to keep working on the details.

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  • westernwake1 Nov 9, 4:15 p.m.

    'westernwake1 Where did you hear that? The last I heard the requirement under the qualified plans were still being determined....' - NCMom1

    From a neighbor who is an insurance lawyer. He supports Obamacare but states that many current insurance plans may not meet the requirements to be "qualified". And yes, you are correct the requirements are still being determined - but the initial proposals show that our state employee plan will not likely meet the proposed standards without updating. Many state employees will probably view this as a good thing; their coverage has been getting worse year after year.

  • davidk_at_unc Nov 9, 3:59 p.m.

    "They can start deducting the penalty from my SS check. I'll not be purchasing any." -- wayneboyd

    Change happens. Change is inevitable. Individuals can deal with change in one of two ways. They can either take responsibility for themselves, step up to the plate and manage the change to the best of their benefit, or they can lie down, kick their feet, pout and scream and let the change manage them. You sir have chosen the role of victim. You are letting the change manage you. Congratulations!

  • Realy People? Nov 9, 3:59 p.m.

    Let's see...large companies are cutting their full time employees hours to part-time hours so they do not have to provide insurance. The small businesses who have under 50 employess are not going to hire that 50th. employee so they will not have to provide insurance. Way to boost the economy Mr. Obama!!!

  • hardycitrus Nov 9, 3:04 p.m.

    >>"They can start deducting the penalty from my SS check. I'll not be purchasing any." wayneboyd

    Yeah, um, that would have probably been under Romney after he would have privatized Medicare.

  • michaelstrickland Nov 9, 2:58 p.m.

    You can bet your new updated Obamacare health plan will come with an updated price tag. Except those that can't afford it. No worries. Obama's got ya. Just the middle class getting screwed again. Sorry. Still figuring out what my "fair share" is with this socialist thing. Got to remember to lower my standards.

  • heelsrule Nov 9, 2:55 p.m.

    Aren't those the are on SS also on medicare?

    You can collect Social Security at 62, Medicare doesn't start until 65.

  • storchheim Nov 9, 2:54 p.m.

    They can't take it out of my SS check since I'm too young for SSI and too honest to go on SSDI, but I won't be buying it either.

    You know the penalty for disobedience is $695 (currently) by 2016, right?

  • NCMom1 Nov 9, 2:50 p.m.

    "One other interesting point is that the state's 70% plan that they provide for employees is not likely to meet the requirements to be a "qualified plan" under Obamacare and will need to be updated to improve coverage & benefits.westernwake1

    westernwake1
    Where did you hear that? The last I heard the requirement under the qualified plans were still being determined....

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Nov 9, 2:47 p.m.

    I'm not sure I see the point of setting up an exchange. Just standaridize the language and how the details are laid out and we can shop around just fine.

  • IBnormal Nov 9, 2:45 p.m.

    Oh well, I am sure my company will dump our health coverage and force us onto the exchange. Or, have to pay for higher health care cost and of course the "Cadillac Tax" added to that. Thank you Obama Care.

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