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Blue Cross: ACA plans intact in NC despite Trump’s executive order

Blue Cross and Blue Shield said Monday that President Donald Trump’s executive order to weaken the Affordable Care Act does not affect the policies being sold for the current year.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield said Monday that President Donald Trump’s executive order to weaken the Affordable Care Act does not affect the policies being sold for the current year. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, said Monday that President Donald Trump’s executive order to weaken the Affordable Care Act does not affect the policies being sold for the current year.

Meanwhile, the law’s advocates in North Carolina are urging residents to sign up for health insurance before the Jan. 31 enrollment deadline.

Trump signed the order Friday, authorizing federal agencies to suspend or delay certain provisions of the ACA, but the document does not change anything on its own. In the absence of a public explanation of the order’s intent, it remains unclear what changes are likely and when they would happen.

The executive order has sowed much confusion at a time that the Republican-led Congress is vowing to repeal the law. Legal Aid of North Carolina held a call-in Monday to address the issue with its nearly 200 volunteer navigators who enroll residents.

“There’s been so much talk about a repeal, and they thought: Is this the repeal we thought was coming?” said Jennifer Simmons, Legal Aid’s navigator project director. “The bottom line is: When consumers enroll, they are entering into a contract with the insurance company.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the only insurer offering ACA plans in all 100 counties of the state. On Monday, the company issued a statement addressing customer concerns: “President Trump’s executive order is a first step in a process that will unfold over the coming months and years to address our nation's health care cost crisis. There are no direct changes to existing health insurance policies coming from this executive order.”

Cigna, which offers ACA plans in five Triangle counties, declined comment.

Enroll America, an organization that organizes public enrollment activities, is advising the public not to read political tea leaves but focus on getting health insurance, said Lovemore Masakadza, North Carolina spokesman for Enroll America.

“We are telling people: Do not speculate,” Masakadza said. “Our paramount goal is for consumers to know nothing is changed and they have an enrollment deadline coming up.”

The law, now in its fourth year of mandatory health insurance coverage for most Americans, prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The law also subsidizes health insurance costs for low- and middle-income Americans, and includes financial penalties for those who fail to obtain health insurance.

Trump’s executive order authorizes federal agencies to waive or delay implementations of ACA provisions that would impose a fiscal burden on any state, individual, provider or insurer. However, health care law experts said undoing the ACA program would require an act of Congress or a federal rule-making proceeding in most cases.

Congressional Republicans have not reached consensus on how to replace the ACA, and experts have warned that a repeal, or even a partial repeal, could send health insurance markets into a tailspin if the law is not replaced.

Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor, said on The Incidental Economist health care blog that the executive order could lead to more than two dozen possible changes. But it’s not clear some are legal and if federal officials would “gamble the stability – already quite fragile, in some states – of the individual market.”

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski

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