In May, we shared our intention to sell Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans on the federal Marketplace by filing our rates with the Department of Insurance. Despite major challenges with how the ACA has played out in North Carolina, BCBSNC has confirmed its decision to continue offering ACA plans in all 100 counties for 2017. In fact, we will again be the only insurer to serve all North Carolinians in the individual market.
There were many things to consider while making this decision, most of all to ensure that in light of heavy financial losses, we are able to be here for our customers in the long term. Over the past two years, BCBSNC has reported $405 million in losses solely from ACA plans. Losses that largely threaten our financial stability for the 3.5 million other customers we serve.
While crunching the numbers was an important step, we also take seriously our commitment to improve the health and well-being of our customers and communities. And because of that commitment, we’re doing everything we can to make the ACA work for North Carolina. Without BCBSNC in the Marketplace, 600,000 North Carolinians would be at risk of losing their coverage. This is our home, too, and it’s important that our families, friends and neighbors – our customers – have access to the coverage they need.
We’re in, but changes are ahead
We’ve heard from many of you that the cost of premiums remains a top concern when shopping for a subsidized plan. At the same time, we’re learning just how much ACA customers use medical services – and it’s a lot. This wouldn’t be a great concern if enough healthy customers were paying into the system to offset these costs. In order to prevent premiums from increasing further in 2017, we’ve made necessary changes to plans and benefits. I encourage you to be on the lookout for this information from us in the near future about how these changes will impact you. We are committed to informing you throughout the enrollment season.
With the national insurers officially exiting the market, BCBSNC will absorb about 260,000 more customers than expected. It’s important that we are equipped to cover all of our customers’ health expenses and service needs. This is how insurance works for everyone. As a result, we adjusted our rate filing for 2017 to account for the influx of new customers and their medical needs. Existing customers can expect rate notices in their mailboxes by the end of October to learn more about how these changes will impact them.
Serving more North Carolinians
We have been working hard to make operational improvements to serve an expected increase in customers for our 2017 Annual Enrollment Period. This year we made technology and system enhancements and more than doubled our service staff. However, Aetna’s late-August decision to stop selling ACA plans in NC creates an unexpected addition of 260,000 customers. That would be a tremendous challenge for any business. It takes several months to hire and train customer service employees in order to meet the complex health care needs of our customers. This will create customer service delays during peak times for customers who purchase their own insurance.
While this is a reality, it is not something we take lightly. Despite all of these challenges, we are grateful to serve even more North Carolinians in 2017. And it’s more important than ever that we make it easy for you to get the information you need, when you need it. We’re preparing to bring that information to you in a variety of ways. We will continue to do all that we can to help make the ACA, and our health care system, work for you.