The health insurance marketplace that opens next week in North Carolina will not offer much of a choice between different insurance companies. The federal government announced Wednesday that only one company is offering plans in more than half of North Carolina's counties.
The whole point of the health insurance marketplace is to get online or on the phone and do a simple, apples to apples comparison of different insurance companies' plans.
But in 61 of North Carolina's counties, there will only be one apple – Blue Cross Blue Shield. And based on new data from the federal government, the North Carolina marketplace will have some of the highest average premiums in the country.
Larry Levitt studies the marketplaces for the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"In other states where there is quite a bit of competition, we've seen prices come down as a result," Levitt said. "If one insurer dominates the market, then there may not be that kind of competitive pressure."
South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia all have more competition and lower average premiums than North Carolina, according to the federal data.
All North Carolina counties will have a variety of plans to choose from though. They'll just be from Blue Cross Blue Shield and, in some counties, Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas. Mecklenburg, Wake, Cabarrus and Gaston counties are among the ones that'll have those two companies to choose from.
Statewide, the cheapest average premiums range from about $280 to $370 dollars, depending on what kind of plan you choose. And those price tags don't include tax credits, which will make coverage cheaper for people whose incomes fall below 400 percent of the federal poverty level. (That's about $92,000 for a family of four.)
In the Charlotte area, for example, the federal government estimates a 27-year-old who makes $25,000 dollars per year would pay $77 a month for one of the lowest cost plans. A family of four making $50,000 dollars a year could pay as little as $36 per month.
You can find more information on premiums across the country on pages 7 through 14 of this government report.
And here are all the N.C. counties that'll have two insurance companies to choose from on the marketplace:
-Alamance, Alexander, Anson, Avery
-Cabarrus, Caldwell, Catawba, Chatham, Cleveland, Cumberland
-Gaston, Granville, Guilford
-Harnett, Haywood, Henderson
-Madison, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell
-Randolph, Robeson, Rutherford