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Insurance Could Get Cheaper For Some Affordable Care Act Participants

Blue Cross Blue Shield NC headquarters in Durham.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina
Blue Cross Blue Shield NC headquarters in Durham.

Insurance rates could go down next year for some Affordable Care Act participants in North Carolina.

Blue Cross BlueShield of North Carolina announced Tuesday that it’s requesting an overall 4.1 percent rate decrease for 2019 ACA plans offered to individuals. The request must be approved by the state Department of Insurance, which will make its decision in late August or early September.

The Durham-based provider said the rate decrease means a $120 million reduction in health care costs for next year. This is the first rate decrease in the 25-year history of Blue Cross NC, according to the company.

Blue Cross NC also said it will be reducing premiums in Charlotte and Gastonia, although it did not specify how much the reduction will be. The company said it will continue to offer Blue Local with Atrium Health, and Blue Value with Novant and Caromont.

Federal subsidies are available for about 90 percent of current Blue Cross NC customers who have ACA plans. That means about 10 percent of customers don’t qualify for subsidies and have to pay the full premium amount. Qualification for subsidies varies by plan and household income.

According to president and CEO of Blue Cross NC Patrick Conway, the rate decrease is a good first step.

“We’re moving in the right direction, but even with a lower rate, premiums are still too high – particularly for those who don’t get a subsidy,” Conway said in a statement.

Blue Cross NC serves more than 475,000 ACA customers — also known as Obamacare participants — and is the only insurer to offer those plans in all 100 North Carolina counties, the company said.

Pricing information for individual premiums will be released in October. Open enrollment begins Nov. 1.