Thousands in NC may be forced to find new health insurance

By: Jason Stoogenke

Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolina's biggest health insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, may not offer Affordable Care Act plans next year. The insurer said it's losing money on the deal, and that would have a huge effect on an estimated 300,000 North Carolinians.

Patty McElveen lives in Salisbury. She has diabetes and takes insulin every day. She said she's had trouble getting health insurance because of her pre-existing condition.

"All the ones, the insurance companies that we checked out before we retired, would not insure me," she said.

Her husband, Tom McElveen, said if his wife can't get insurance, "she dies."

"I don't know. I don't know if I'd be able to afford my insulin. I just don't know what I would do,” Patty McElveen said.

Then, the Affordable Care Act came along. The McElveens qualify, so they can't be turned down for health coverage.

"Without ACA, she would not be able to have insurance," Tom McElveen said.

They chose Blue Cross and now worry what happens to them if the company stops offering ACA plans next year.

UNC Charlotte professor Michael Thompson says Blue Cross is the only company that offers ACA plans in all 100 North Carolina counties.

In some counties -- 23, according to Action 9 sources -- it's the only option. Which counties is not public information. So, if you live in one of those counties, you have two choices:

  1. Get a plan in another county and go farther for your health care
  2. Go without insurance

So Action 9 asked the other two insurers that offer ACA plans in North Carolina -- Aetna and UnitedHealthcare -- to list the counties in which they do not provide plans. Action 9 was waiting to hear back late Monday.  

"It's a horrible situation for consumers to be in right now," Thompson said. "The consumers in those counties, if Blue Cross leaves, will have very few or no choices."

The McElveens never pictured being in this situation.

After all, Tom McElveen says he spent 25 years working in health care and thought he did everything right, guaranteeing coverage for him -- and Patty McElveen -- in retirement.

If you want to do something right now, it seems the best option may be to contact your federal and state lawmakers and tell them how this would impact you. Here are the links to find yours: 

Here's another tricky situation: If you don't have health insurance, you can be charged a fee. But what if you don't have any good options? The NCDOI is raising that, and other issues, with federal health officials. 

DOI said Goodwin supports the ACA but has concerns related to North Carolina's health insurance market, including market withdrawals. The letter was not in reaction to Blue Cross's statements about possibly leaving the marketplace specifically. It was sent before those statements.

Last Thursday, Blue Cross told Action 9 it was working on releasing a statement but has not sent one yet.