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Health

After Premium Hikes, NC Insurance Commissioner Urges People To Shop Around For Lower Rates

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North Carolina had among the highest health insurance premium increases in the country as the open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act began this week.

Open enrollment began this week for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. North Carolinians will see some of the highest premium increases in the nation for individual and small group plans.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be allowed to charge an average of 32.5 percent more next year for individual plans, and six percent more for small groups. Aetna will be able to charge individual customers an average of nearly 24 percent more per month.

North Carolina Department of Insurance spokeswoman Kerry Hall said the agency reviews rate increase requests every year.

"The insurance companies are looking at the premium dollars that they have coming in versus the costs for health insurance coverage that's going out. Blue Cross Blue Shield, in particular, has announced publicly that they've been operating at a loss because of all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act," she said.

State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin blames the steep premium increase on the General Assembly, which declined to set up a state insurance exchange and expand Medicaid.

"If we had a state-based system, we would have had more companies competing. There would have been more leverage on my end as the Insurance Commissioner and rates would have been lower," Goodwin said. "If there had been Medicaid expansion, rates would have been lower."

Goodwin said North Carolina has among the highest rate of insurance subsidies nationally. Those help low-income people pay their premiums. He recommends individuals and small groups shop around  for affordable plans that suit their needs.

Open enrollment runs through January.

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