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NC OKs higher rates to keep Blue Cross policies

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina’s largest health insurer will be allowed to raise premiums by between 16 percent and 24 percent on policies that would have been canceled for failing to meet minimum requirements required by the federal overhaul law, the state’s insurance commissioner said Tuesday.
Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said his office approved the rate increases as requested by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The decision means people who had one of the nearly 152,000 cancelled policies could keep them next year at the higher cost.
The plans for customers who buy their own policies were being cancelled because they didn’t include coverage for pre-existing conditions, hospitalization, prescription drugs, and seven other basic benefits. President Barack Obama announced two weeks ago that companies can continue offering policies that don’t meet minimum requirements under the Affordable Care Act if insurers desire and state regulators approve.
Blue Cross said the premium increases reflect higher medical costs, spokesman Lew Borman said.
“This includes the price of care as well as quantity of services used by this pool of customers. New taxes and fees resulting from the ACA still apply to these renewed plans,” Borman said.
Twenty-one companies operating in North Carolina terminated 183,821 individual and group health insurance policies affecting 473,724 people by late October, according to figures collected by the state Insurance Department. Blue Cross had the most, followed by 24,829 by Aetna and its subsidiary Coventry Health.
Only Blue Cross has filed a request with the state Insurance Department to extend policies scheduled for termination, agency spokeswoman Kerry Hall wrote in an email. An Aetna spokeswoman declined comment Tuesday.
People whose polices have been canceled can shop for replacement plans on the federal insurance marketplace, but its website has been so plagued by glitches that only 1,700 North Carolina residents were signed up for new plans in the first month of open enrollment. North Carolina is one of 36 states to forgo creating their own state-run marketplace in favor of the Washington-designed exchange.

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