A North Carolina Senate bill filed late last week by Sen. Phil Berger (R – Rockingham) would allow North Carolinians access to health insurance plans authorized in other states. Such a move would lower the number of uninsured in NC and lower health insurance costs for many North Carolinians.
Under current law, North Carolina citizens are restricted to purchasing only from state government-approved health providers and can only select only from state government-approved plans that offer the myriad of NC's health insurance coverage mandates. (the exception for this are large employers who provide self-funded insurance plans and are therefore exempt from state regulations courtesy of ERISA)
By allowing people to choose from more affordable plans in other states, SB 725 would lower the number of uninsured in North Carolina – and provide more affordable options for those already insured.
- North Carolina’s average annual family health insurance
premium of $4,104 is higher than 30 states; and is sixty-one percent higher than
Iowa’s ($2,544), and fifty-five percent
higher than North Dakota’s ($2,652)
North Carolina’s average annual
individual health insurance premium of $1,704 is higher than 28 states; and is
forty-five percent higher than Iowa’s
($1,176), and thirty-four percent higher than Michigan’s ($1,272)
"Affordability" is cited as the number one obstacle for people obtaining health insurance. SB 725 would be a major step in overcoming that obstacle. Providing more alternatives would likewise ease the upward pressure on NC's growing Medicaid burden, as more people would be able to afford private insurance and not need to seek out government coverage.
With that said – who could be against this bill?
Expect heavy opposition to come from Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, who enjoy their near-monopoly status in this state because of the draconian regulations of the health insurance field. Opening up the health insurance market to more competitors from out of state will force BCBS of NC to find ways to innovate and compete with more affordable plans. The result will be even more savings for insurance customers.
Especially in these difficult economic times, North Carolina Senators who oppose SB 725 will have a hard time explaining why they decided to side with health insurance giants to deny struggling North Carolinians access to affordable health insurance.
*(Insurance rate data obtained from ehealthinsurance.com’s 2007
report “The Cost and Benefit of Individual Health Insurance Plans” )
UPDATE: The correct bill number is SB 725. In the original post it was identified as SB 275. Sorry for the typo.