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If you go to healthcare.gov and search for a health plan in North Carolina — now that it’s working better– what will you find?

For starters, you’ll see 26 different plans from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. You’ll also find plans from Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas — but only if you live in one of the 39 counties Coventry is serving on the exchange.

That’s it. Just two companies, out of eight in North Carolina that are approvedl to sell plans that meet Affordable Care Act rules. It makes us wonder where our neighbors are – the companies we run across every day in the state’s health insurance market.

The other six have their ACA-ready plans available, but you won’t find them on the exchange in North Carolina. This means they’re targeting only the potential customers who won’t need a federal subsidy — in other words, the more affluent folks shopping for individual coverage — leaving only BCBSNC and Coventry to serve moderate- to lower-income North Carolinians.

Here’s how CEO Brad Wilson put it in a recent interview with Greater Charlotte Biz:

“The opportunity to participate on the exchange was open to any company in the country, so we find it curious that many of them chose not to invest in our state. But our obligation is to North Carolina, so we didn’t calibrate our engagement based on how many competitors there would be on the exchange.”

While we can’t answer for the other insurers, we can tell you why we made the decision to participate on the health insurance exchange. Here are our top three reasons:

  • We have a commitment to North Carolina. As the state’s largest and oldest health insurer, it’s fair to say we know the market pretty well. We have an interest in seeing North Carolinians live healthy lives and in helping make the state’s health care system better.
  • We have more than 80 years of experience serving consumers. Products like Blue Advantage offer quality, affordable options for people who don’t get health insurance through work. We used that experience to develop our health plans for the exchange.
  • We want to be your trusted resource. Health care reform is complex, to say the least. Consumers and businesses understandably have a lot of questions. By participating on the exchange in all 100 counties, we’re in a unique position to help educate North Carolinians about all their choices for health coverage.

Time will tell how successful the exchange becomes – both for consumers and for insurers. But regardless how that turns out, we know that participating on the exchange was the right call for helping North Carolinians learn about and adjust to the changes brought about by the ACA.

 

About Kyle Marshall

Kyle Marshall, a senior communications specialist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, writes about the health care industry and provides communications counsel and support to the company's executive team.