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Blue Cross plans to offer ACA plans in all 100 NC counties in 2017

A client enters the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Triangle Sales Center in the Village Market Place shopping center in Morrisville, NC, in a file photo taken Saturday, January 9, 2016.
A client enters the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Triangle Sales Center in the Village Market Place shopping center in Morrisville, NC, in a file photo taken Saturday, January 9, 2016. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, North Carolina’s largest health insurer, said Thursday morning that it plans to continue offering individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act in all 100 counties of the state in 2017.

The announcement guarantees that all North Carolina residents will have ACA access for at least one more year as the federal exchange enters its fourth year of public enrollment. Blue Cross’s decision comes after two major insurers – Aetna and UnitedHealthcare – said they would not offer ACA plans in North Carolina and many other states in 2017.

Blue Cross has offered ACA plans statewide since 2014, the first year the Americans had health insurance through the federal exchanges. But the Durham-based organization had said it would review whether to offer ACA plans in 2017 after losing $405 million on ACA customers in 2014 and 2015.

The pricing and other details of Blue Cross insurance plans will not be released until October. The company is seeking an 18.8 percent average rate increase for 2017 plans from the N.C. Department of Insurance, after being granted a 32.5 percent average rate increase for this year’s plans.

Open enrollment for 2017 will begin on Nov. 1, and will end Jan. 31. Customers who want health insurance by Jan. 1 will need to be enrolled by Dec. 15.

The ACA, passed by Congress in 2010, requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a financial penalty. The federal program offers financial subsidies to offset health insurance expenses for people whose household incomes fall between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, typically low- and middle-income households.

In North Carolina, ACA enrollment surpassed 545,000 people as of March 31, the fourth-highest ACA enrollment in the United States.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski

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