Medicaid patients in North Carolina will soon be able to choose among insurance companies. The state health department announced the insurers Monday in another step toward privatizing the state-run plan for the poor and disabled.
There are four insurance companies that Medicaid patients from around the state will be able to choose from: AmeriHealth Caritas, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, UnitedHealthcare and WellCare.
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The transition to privatized Medicaid was directed by state lawmakers back in 2015. The contracts represent a $6 billion a year spend for North Carolina. Dave Richard leads the state’s Medicaid program. He said the department is encouraging doctors and hospitals to be a part of multiple insurance companies networks so that people don’t lose their doctors.
“Our expectation is as long as the provider that they currently have is in the Medicaid program, the vast majority of beneficiaries will continue to go to their provider,” he said.
The state is moving 1.6 million patients over to this privatized system in phases. The first phase, starting in November, will include than half-a-million in the North Central part of the state. North Carolina Secretary of Health Mandy Cohen said the department chose to start there because of the proximity to Raleigh.
“We know that the beginning of starting these kinds of things will take a lot of back-and-forth operational work,” she said. “So, it’s just a practical geography consideration.”
People in the rest of the state will start picking plans in February 2020. Those in the Charlotte region and southeastern part of the state will have one additional insurer to choose from: Carolina Complete Health. It's an insurer that’s run by doctors and other medical providers. Those with more severe medical conditions won’t be transferred to the private program until 2021.