by Bob Geary
Adam Searing of the N.C. Justice Center calls it historic, and indeed it is: Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC is reaching into its well-stuffed coffers and refunding $155.8 million to 215,000 policyholders. Why? The short answer is federal health care reform. Under the new law, N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is empowered to vet what health insurers charge in North Carolina (up to now, the Insurance Department has merely "received" insurers' rates). And, of course, Goodwin started with BCBSNC, which controls more than half of the health insurance market in North Carolina and remains — against its wishes — nonprofit. Oh, and BCBS is under new management, namely CEO Brad Wilson, which doubtless has something to do with it.
Searing says, following a press conference this morning:
... this signals because of the recently-passed health care law a new aggressiveness on the part of NC Dept of Insurance Cmmsr Goodwin to review health insurance rates and a significant turnabout for NC Blue Cross to look toward its nonprofit obiligations. Not to mention a huge political boost for supporters of the health law — not only are rate increases moderating this year, but hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians are getting refunds. Details:
—Goes to individual policyholders in Blue Advantage and Blue Options (215,000 policies, over 300,000 people)
—Total is $155.8 million from reserves
—Refund will be about 1.5 months worth of premiums
Brad Wilson, chief executive of Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer, said the refunds would be issued to people who had individual Blue Advantage or Blue Options HSA policies on March 23, when President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.
"It's simply the right thing to do," Wilson said. "A new law was enacted, new rules are in force, change is in the air.":