BCBS of North Carolina braces to be state's sole ACA marketplace insurer

(Getty/Creative RF)

Photo credit: Getty/Creative RF

Almost all North Carolina residents who purchase coverage from the ACA exchange will have only one choice of insurer in the coming year--an insurer that may be ill-equipped to shoulder that burden.

Nationwide, at least 1.4 million people covered under the exchanges can expect their plans to vanish due to insurers exiting certain markets, Bloomberg reports. Benjamin Wakana, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, told the publication that “it’s part of the normal business cycle for insurers to discontinue, change and replace plans from year to year.”

The problem is, individuals are seeing a reduced number of insurers among which to shop when they lose their current plan.

North Carolinians’ choices are even more severely limited than those of their counterparts in other states, according to an article in the Washington Post. After UnitedHealth and Aetna announced plans to exit the state’s exchange, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) became the last insurer standing for most state residents. 

BCBSNC’s decision to stay did not come easily, either, according to CEO Brad Wilson. who told the Post, “the easy thing to have done would be to quit.”

The insurer will absorb around 284,000 new customers with unknown medical needs, and has too little time to hire and train enough customer service workers the article notes. BCBSNC also recently got hit by a state record $3.6 million fine over administrative issues involving its computer system.

That combination of factors has led the insurer to request average price increases of around 24 percent, which regulators reportedly have approved. In fact, the Post cited price increases as the main incentive for BCBSNC to remain in the market. BCBSNC expects government subsidies to mitigate the effect of higher premiums for the “vast majority” of qualifying customers, per the article.