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Deflecting blame is an insurer’s specialty

North Carolina has some of the worst premium rates in the country. Insurer lobbyists like Peter Daniel are shifting the blame.

It’s that time of year again . . . insurers across the country are starting to release their 2024 rates.

It’s also that time of year again when insurers deflect their rate hikes by blaming anyone and everyone . . . but themselves.

Just take this op-ed from The Carolina Journal, for instance.

North Carolina has some of the most expensive insurance premiums in the country: The state’s $666 average monthly premium is 25 percent higher than the average rate in the Southeast. What’s more, North Carolinians pay 40 percent more per month than residents in Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

But while noting the exorbitant premiums afflicting North Carolinians, the op-ed makes it clear that insurers aren’t to blame: “The issue isn’t the insurance companies. . . . The issue is North Carolina’s government mandates on health care. . . . Government mandates increase the cost of health care which increases the cost of insurance premiums.”

Before we delve into the absurdity of this, might we point out that the writer of this article, Peter Daniel, is the executive director of the North Carolina Association of Health Plans — a.k.a. he’s an insurer lobbyist? So he might just be a bit biased.

The North Carolina government has worked very hard to increase access to healthcare for North Carolinians — and limit insurers’ influence. Back in May, the North Carolina House Health Committee proposed several bills that would limit insurance companies’ ability to deny claims, a move that would benefit hundreds of thousands of state residents.

That same lobbyist who opposed these bills? Peter Daniel. Daniel used the same argument, too — that these bills would increase premiums. Essentially, the argument is that if the government doesn’t let insurers control when and where patients receive care, prices are going up. And then those insurers will blame the government for it.

In his op-ed, Daniel notes that insurers are “not somehow deciding to charge more for health insurance in North Carolina than they do just across the border in Virginia or South Carolina.”

We can’t help but argue that that’s exactly what they’re doing. Because North Carolina is trying to become a state that ensures insurance coverage actually covers something, but doing so would eat into insurers’ profits. To recoup their profits, insurers would then need to hike up their premiums.

For the record, in 2022, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) — the state’s largest health insurer — reported a net income of $36 million. That’s income after expenses. That same year, BCBSNC announced a 7.2 percent rate increase for individuals under 65 who had ACA coverage in 2023.

You do the math.

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