Bill to reorganize Blue Cross NC advancing despite insurance commissioner's opposition

Legislation that would allow Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to reorganize, adding a nonprofit parent holding company, is moving ahead in the state's House of Representatives. 

The bill, introduced in March, would allow Blue Cross NC to create a new deregulated holding company it could move assets to. The bill would allow the parent holding company to invest and acquire other healthcare companies, with less oversight from the state insurance department. 

"Today, Blue Cross NC, a North Carolina company, is subject to outdated and overly restrictive regulatory rules that only apply to us. We are simply asking you to help level the playing field so that we can be subject to the same rules as our competitors and provide the services you and North Carolinians expect in today's market," Blue Cross NC Board Chair Ned Curran wrote in a letter to legislators. 

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey is opposed to the bill, which he said in an April 27 op-ed in The News & Observer could increase premiums for policyholders. 

In an April 24 news conference, the commissioner said any investment of policyholders' money should be for the benefit of policyholders and North Carolinians. 

"I'm here to tell you, there was nothing good for North Carolina consumers or Blue Cross policy holders in this proposed legislation," Mr. Causey told reporters. 

Mr. Causey said he does not believe Blue Cross NC has difficulty competing with for-profit insurers under current regulations. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, a spokesperson for Blue Cross NC said Mr. Causey has mischaracterized the legislation and its effect. 

"We have engaged in good-faith discussions with stakeholders that have resulted in strengthened consumer protections, transparency and oversight. Blue Cross NC members deserve more than bureaucracy and burdensome regulations that make healthcare even more expensive," the spokesperson said. 

The bill has passed through several committee hearings in the House of Representatives with little debate this week, North Carolina Health News reported April 27. 

The current version of the legislation includes several measures for accountability and transparency, a Blue Cross NC spokesperson told Becker's, including: 

  • Requiring investments by the new holding company and subsidiaries to benefit affordability, access, better health or customer experience. 
  • Barring executive and director compensation from increasing as part of the reorganization. 
  • Requiring the holding company's board of directors to be made up only of the Blue Cross NC board.

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