The Nov. 3 business article “N.C. residents urged to compare ACA plans” identified North Carolina as having some of the highest health insurance rates in the nation. While shopping is one way to reduce prices, it is only a Band-Aid.
Increasingly in North Carolina, and across the country, we are seeing insurance companies doing whatever they can to control costs. One strategy is narrowing networks.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. last year introduced Blue Value and Blue Local limited networks. This year it’s offering these limited networks only in some of North Carolina’s largest metropolitan areas. But BCBSNC was not the first.
United Healthcare came back into North Carolina last year and offers only an HMO network. Coventry/Aetna has built its plans around four major hospital systems. So, shopping is not an option for everyone.
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By shopping and switching plans, residents may have to give up their doctors in favor of a limited network plan. Worse, they could live in a county where they have only one carrier and shopping is not an option.
Having consumers shop their health insurance every year is smart, but it does not fix the larger issue. Until we control spending, until we become smarter and more efficient consumers of health care, we will see the narrowing of networks, decreasing benefits and more regulation.
President, North Carolina Association of Health Underwriters