Last fall federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asked me to write her a letter outlining concerns I have about North Carolina’s health insurance market. A Feb. 3 News & Observer story about that letter evoked a firestorm of reaction – positive and negative – and left people uncertain about my views on the Affordable Care Act.
I have consistently supported the ACA. Because of it, insurers can no longer turn away our sickest men, women and children. Families have access to potentially life-saving preventive care. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians have enrolled in ACA plans – for some, it’s the first time they’ve had health insurance. These were positive and much-needed reforms.
But I will not shy away from pointing out problems that need fixing. Our state’s failures to expand Medicaid and to create a state-controlled insurance exchange have consequences. As health insurers merge and consolidate, withdraw from our market and reduce the areas in which they offer plans, North Carolinians are left with fewer choices and less access to health care coverage. Having fewer insurers could jeopardize the progress we’ve made in reducing the number of uninsured people.
It’s time for state leaders to recognize we can do better for the people of North Carolina and for the federal government to start the conversation with state regulators to develop solutions that protect consumers and rebuild our private health insurance market.