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June 18, 2014

NC residents paying $81 a month on average for subsidized health insurance

North Carolinians who bought subsidized health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are paying $81 a month on average, according to federal insurance data issued Wednesday.

North Carolinians who bought subsidized health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are paying $81 a month on average, according to federal insurance data issued Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data shows that North Carolina residents are paying $1 a month less than the national average.

Of the roughly 357,000 people in the state who bought health insurance through the federal marketplace, 91 percent qualified for subsidies.

The 32,130-plus North Carolina residents who didn’t qualify for federal aid, however, are paying more than the national average, the data shows. They are paying $381 a month, on average, whereas the national average monthly premium is $346.

A number of factors affect health insurance costs, including regional cost of health care and competition among health insurers.

North Carolina has one dominant insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which sold subsidized policies in all 100 counties. Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas sold policies in 39 counties.

Blue Cross has filed proposed rate increases for 2015 with the N.C. Department of Insurance. But the amount of the increases won’t become public until the agency approves the rates in the fall.

According to an estimate published this month by economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northwestern University, health insurance rates would have been about 11 percent lower in many states if all health insurers had sold subsidized insurance through the insurance marketplace.

The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to buy health insurance unless they fall below a certain income level or qualify for other exemptions. Since most are insured by their employer, Medicare or Medicaid, the law mostly affects people who buy individual insurance and those who were uninsured.

Under the law, failure to enroll carries a fine – $95 per uninsured person or 1 percent of household income in the first year – that will be taken out of tax returns.

The new law bars insurance companies from rejecting applicants with preexisting conditions, charging women more than men, or charging older applicants more than three times as much as younger applicants.

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