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Bad BCBSNC bill gets more time to become worse

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina is attempting to reorganize its business structure – but would the changes benefit patients, or profits?

Whoops, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) – you almost had us.

The state’s largest health insurer is attempting to reorganize its business structure . . . which, conveniently, will most likely give the company more power to invest, grow and profit – with less oversight from regulators.

Sound comforting?

Through House Bill 346 and Senate Bill 296, BCBSNC would “restructure so it can set up a parent nonprofit holding company,” per the North Carolina Justice Center. BCBSNC would be allowed to move some of its $4.5 billion (yes, billion) assets into the holding company for investment opportunities.

And get this: the proposed parent company would not be subject to the same North Carolina Department of Insurance (DOI) regulations BCBSNC currently faces. The move would obfuscate BCBSNC actions and financials and obscure key information from the DOI, affecting its ability to regulate BlueCross and protect consumers.

The bill not only increases the insurer’s profit potential, but it also threatens the affordability for its millions of policyholders. Possible outcomes of BCBSNC’s proposal include potentially increasing premiums, reducing benefits, and limiting provider networks.

BCBSNC cites the need for competition as reason to restructure. But the insurer is not exactly hurting for competition. BCBSNC has 4.3 million members. It’s also the largest insurer in the state. In 2022, the company made over $10 billion in revenue. And in 2021, it owned 80 percent of the market share for individual and group health insurance, according to North Carolina Justice Center. Arguably, the bill would give BCBSNC an even more unfair advantage by loosening its regulations.

Many people, including state Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey, are skeptical of the bill. Causey publicly expressed concern that the bill will raise health insurance premiums for consumers and shared his cynicism of BCBSNC’s motives in trying to forgo regulation. Rather than passing the bill through the legislature, Causey proposed sending the bill on to a study committee. This will allow legislators to closely review the bill and make changes as needed.

Or. . . sending it on to a committee will just give a bad bill more time to get worse. We await anxiously with the 4.3 million North Carolinians who have BCBSNC plans, as the fate of their healthcare is in the hands of legislators.

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