Health insurance enrollment opens amid price hikes

Health insurance enrollment opens amid price hikes
November 12
00:00 2015

In above photo: Affordable Care Act Image (File Photo)

Affordable Care Act subsidies will help some

Open enrollment for health insurance is now happening as North Carolina health insurance providers prepare to significantly raise premiums on individual policies next year.

The state insurance department approved rate hikes for plans covering about 610,000 people. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina was approved for an average 32.5 percent increase, Aetna for an average 24 percent increase, and United HealthCare for a 20 percent average increase. These are the only three insurance providers on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace in North Carolina. The increases are among the highest in the 37 states that rely on the federal website.

Katie Harper, an ACA navigator at Healthcare Access, a local non-profit that links the uninsured with medical care, said that she’s still been able to find people affordable plans. Higher subsidies will offset the cost for many and there are many plans to choose from for someone who feels they can no longer afford their current one.

“Hopefully people are going to see that care is affordable even with the increases, it’s still something within their grasp, that they can have affordable health care, that they have options,” said Harper.

Tax subsidies, which are paid directly to the insurance company, are available to those buying individual insurance through the marketplace that are between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty level and vary in amount, depending on things like income and the number of people in a household.

Harper said subsidies allow some people to get insurance for under $100, and that still remains true for next year.

Harper said that everyone getting insurance through the marketplace should update their information and see what their subsidy and options will be for next year. Anyone unsure about how to navigate the marketplace can get free help from a certified application counselor or navigator.

Blue Cross, whose individual premium increases in 2016 vary from 5 to 42 percent per plan, said the rate hikes are due to ACA enrollees being less healthy and using more services than expected. The not-for-profit business said this was why it took a net loss of $50.6 million in 2014, its first loss in two decades. Along with rate hikes, Blue Cross will also discontinue some plans in 16 counties in the Triangle and Charlotte regions, though the insurance giant points out that it’s customers have many other plans to choose from.

Insurers hoped the participation of young people would offset the expense of less healthy customers they’re required to cover now that they can’t discriminate against those with preexisting conditions or cap benefits .Thus far, young people are not signing up in the numbers insurers wanted. Harper said she hoped as more previously uninsured people become used to having insurance, that trend will change. Regardless of what the market does, she said the ACA will continue to give people options.

“Our hope is that plans will remain affordable, if not through the rates, then through the subsidies,” said Harper.

The open enrollment period runs from November 1-January 31, 2016, but for a policy to begin by January 1,  sign-up must be completed by December 15. The tax penalty for not having insurance in 2016 increases to $695 per adult, up to $2,085 per family, or 2.5 percent of income – whichever is higher.

To sign up, renew or check on subsidies and plans, go to Those needing assistance signing up can find help by going to or calling 1-855-733-3711.

About Author

Todd Luck

Todd Luck

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors