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Blue Cross NC Wants To Be 'Go-To' Source On Health Care Reform Info

The dominant provider of health insurance in North Carolina also wants to be the dominant source of information about health care overhaul as new laws go into effect. This week Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina launched a website dedicated to explaining the reform package - and why it may mean higher premiums for customers. The welcome page of the website features the question on many minds: "What does health care reform mean for me?" Blue Cross attempts to answer that question by condensing thousands of pages from the reform bill into a series of plain-English bullet points. And it's all online at www.nchealthreform.com. "We know you may have some decisions to make in the future and we want to play role in being the go-to guys for information that is objective on health reform," says Blue Cross spokesman Lew Borman. The new website is clear and easy to understand. But it also makes a point of highlighting shortcomings in the reform that are likely to result in higher premiums for many customers. Health policy expert Jonathan Oberlander from UNC Chapel Hill says insurance companies have a good reason to try and shape the way their customer's view health care reform. "There's going to be a lot of political pressure that mounts to do something about insurance premiums, and I think insurers want to take a preemptive strike and shift the blame for that back onto the government," says Oberlander. Blue Cross has asked North Carolina regulators for permission to raise rates an average of 7 percent next year on individual plans and Borman says some of that is a result of changes required by the health care overhaul. Other insurance companies are making similar claims. But Oberlander says premiums were going up long before the health care law passed. "Health reform becomes a convenient scapegoat for insurers that are going to raise rates anyway," says Oberlander. For the best explanation of how health care reform will affect you, Oberlander suggests a non-partisan source like the North Carolina Institute of Medicine.