Editorials

As premiums rise, Congress should look to single-payer system

A client enters the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Triangle Sales Center in the Village Market Place shopping center in Morrisville, NC Saturday, January 9, 2016.
A client enters the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Triangle Sales Center in the Village Market Place shopping center in Morrisville, NC Saturday, January 9, 2016. hlynch@newsobserver.com

While Republicans desperately search for a deal with Democrats (one’s in the hopper, but who knows?) to preserve the subsidies that are crucial to millions of Americans buying insurance through exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, back here in North Carolina, reality’s hitting home.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, a major ACA provider and the only company covering all 100 counties of North Carolina, has won an average rate increase of roughly 14 percent for those insured under the ACA. Thanks to advance planning, the boost wasn’t as great as it might have been, but the uncertainty in the overall insurance market has resulted in huge jumps for other customers, with some on grandfathered plans purchased before 2010 (less comprehensive and less expensive than ACA plans) anticipating rates double or triple what they were paying.

BCBS isn’t gouging, but rather reflecting the uncertainty in the health insurance market and in the American health-care system, which on many levels seems hostage to the profit motive. What Congress should be doing, instead of trying to patch together something that will have bipartisan approval, is moving toward a single-payer system modeled on Medicare. That is the only financially viable future for the vast majority of Americans, many of whom are seeing huge percentages of their income go to basic health insurance. Expecting people to give up all of their disposable income, and then some, for increasingly less comprehensive and more expensive insurance will not be a viable political option for those in Congress. Not if they want to stay in Congress.

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