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Citing Uncertainty, Blue Cross Seeks 23% Rate Hike For NC Obamacare Plans

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina

North Carolina's largest health insurer is looking to raise premiums for its Obamacare plans by an average of 23 percent. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina sent the rate hike request to state regulators Thursday.

A big reason for the increase: efforts to end Obamacare.

The 23 percent jump in premiums would come in 2018. If approved, it would be the third consecutive year of double-digit rate increases for plans Blue Cross offers under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

In the past Blue Cross has justified higher premiums due to an increases in the cost of medicine and fees paid to physicians. They cite that again this year.

However, the insurer notes in a blog post that the biggest single reason for the sharp increase in rates centers on Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

In particular, the Blue Cross cites "the lack of federal funding for 'cost-sharing reductions' beginning in 2018." These are the federal subsidies insurers get to help cover the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses for lower-income families and individuals.

It's not clear if the federal government will continue to pay this in the future.

"If the federal funding continued," Blue Cross notes, "we would have filed an average increase of just 8.8 percent for 2018."

Blue Cross also writes that a much smaller, but significant reason is a new tax on insurance policies, which is part of Obamacare.

In the rate increase request, Blue Cross does say it currently plans to provide policies in all 100 North Carolina counties. But that may change depending on what happens in Congress to the Republicans' Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act.