Health Care Act

NC Obamacare health plan premiums will jump — but not as high as expected

FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, file photo, Blue Bridge Benefits LLC agent Patricia Sarabia, right, and Adolfo Briceno, left, with Spanish Speaking LLC, help a potential customer with Blue Cross Blue Shield at a kiosk promoting health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, at Compare Foods in Winston-Salem, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, file photo, Blue Bridge Benefits LLC agent Patricia Sarabia, right, and Adolfo Briceno, left, with Spanish Speaking LLC, help a potential customer with Blue Cross Blue Shield at a kiosk promoting health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act, at Compare Foods in Winston-Salem, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File) AP

North Carolina approved a 14.1 percent average premium increase for Blue Cross and Blue Shield 2018 Affordable Care Act health insurance plans.

That rate increase, announced by Blue Cross NC on Wednesday, was lower than the company’s first proposal of 22.9 percent to the N.C. Department of Insurance.

“Blue Cross NC is proud to be offering ACA plans in all 100 counties next year – and to offer them with a lower premium increase than we initially thought would be required,” said Gary Bolt, a vice president for Blue Cross NC. “But the fact remains that health care costs too much.”

A premium increase of any amount is difficult for many customers, he added.

Most customers receiving help with premiums will see that assistance rise in 2018 to offset the higher increase that was needed, according to Blue Cross.

Blue Cross insures 502,000 N.C. residents through Affordable Care Act plans.

Rate increases vary by health plan, with the lowest change a 0.6 percent decrease and the highest increase of 23.4 percent, according to Blue Cross. In the Charlotte area, increases are close to the statewide average of 14.1 percent, with a similar range.

Insurance companies said they had to increase premiums for next year because the fate of cost sharing reduction subsidies were uncertain. Those subsidies paid insurance companies to reduce the cost of out-of-pocket expenses, including copays and deductibles. The Trump administration dropped those subsidies.

Had those subsidies not been eliminated, Blue Cross NC’s final rate request for ACA customers’ average would have been near zero, the company said in its release.

In South Carolina, about 200,000 Affordable Care Act health plan residents face an average 31.3 percent increase.

Most of those consumers who receive subsidies will see an increase of an average of $10 a month, according to Blue Cross.

Cassie Cope: 704-358-5926, @cassielcope

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