North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said Friday his agency will expedite review of 2014 health plans following President Barack Obama's announcement that companies can continue offering policies that don't meet minimum requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
On the same day, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced it will allow most of its non-grandfathered individual customers to keep their current health plan for another year if they desire.
Goodwin said his office has gotten scores of angry calls from some of the more than 473,000 state residents informed by insurers in recent weeks that their policies will be terminated at the end of the year. Customers are often not told how their current policies fall short under the new law, which requires coverage for pre-existing conditions, hospitalization, prescription drugs, maternity care and other basic benefits.
Goodwin said that like many consumers, he is frustrated by the shifting federal requirements. He says his staff will work with insurers to provide North Carolinians with as many options as possible.
"I'm calling on our health insurers to take advantage of this opportunity, and I've directed my staff to do what is necessary to make sure that insurers can allow their policyholders to keep their plan for another year," Goodwin said.
Following Obama's announcement Thursday, insurance companies and state regulators have been left scrambling to determine whether to reactivate the recently canceled policies.
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 have successfully 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.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina announced Friday afternoon that it will file plans with the Department of Insurace to allow most of its non-grandfathered individual customers to keep their current health plan for another year if they wish.
"We were in discussions with the Department of Insurance about this option even before the president's announcement on Nov. 14," said Brad Wilson, president and CEO of BCBSNC. "We understand that many of our customers are frustrated and confused by difficulties accessing the federal exchange and we want to do everything we can to help them maintain quality health coverage they can afford."
BCBSNCsaid the N.C. Department of Insurance will review and approve rates for these renewed plans.
The N.C. Insurance Department says 21 insurers terminated individual and group health affecting 473,724 state residents. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina accounted for 151,640 of those cancellations, followed by 24,829 by Aetna and its subsidiary Coventry Health.
A spokesman for Aetna said insurers will need expedited approval from state regulators to make quick changes to policies following Obama's announcement.
"We support efforts to allow people to keep what they have," said Aetna's Walt Cherniak. "However, we will need cooperation and state regulators will need to allow us to update our policies and secure appropriate rates so we can get these plans back in the market."