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BlueCross BlueShield looking to raise individual health insurance rates

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TWC News: BlueCross BlueShield looking to raise individual health insurance rates
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C—Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) could be raising its rates next year for people who buy their own insurance.

Friday, the state's largest health insurer asked the NC Department of Insurance (DOI) permission to raise rates next year an average of 10 percent for individual health insurance plans. It would be the biggest increase in the past three years, impacting more than 365,000 customers.

Wendy Washburn has been a BCBSNC customer for 13 years.

“I have the Blue Advantage plan. Doctor visits, if I go, it's a $15 co-pay,” said Washburn.

As a professional nanny for private families, Washburn does not have the benefit of employer-provided health insurance and must buy her own.

“Right now, it just went up. It's $308.91 a month,” said Washburn.

Unfortunately for her, it could go up again in January if the DOI approves BCBSNC's requested increase. Rates would go up 10 percent or less for about 220,000 customers, but the rate hike would be more than 10 percent for about 140,000 people.

“Right away, I thought, 'Oh great, I'm going to have to go look for another insurance which could be a pain or I'm just going to have to maybe budget and not spend money elsewhere,” Washburn said of hearing about the possibility of an increase. “I have to look out for myself and then hopefully I get employed by a family that's willing to help me out quite a bit [with my health insurance].”

BCBSNC Chief Actuary Patrick Getzen said in a statement:

The cost and use of medical services are the primary factors that drive premium rates. We are seeing increased use of services in both inpatient and outpatient care and the cost of services continues to rise significantly more than the rate of inflation.

BCBSNC said rates will actually decrease for more than 4,000 customers. The DOI is expected to rule on the request for a rate increase around mid-September.

BCBSNC said it will send impacted customers a letter in October telling them what their rate will be next year.

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