North Carolina legislators OK Blue Cross Blue Shield reorganization

North Carolina legislators approved a bill that would allow Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina to reorganize, adding a new nonprofit parent company. 

The state Senate approved the bill 41-5 on May 30. The legislation now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk. 

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

The legislation is necessary because Blue Cross NC is subject to "outdated and overly restrictive regulatory rules" that prevent it from competing with other payers, board Chair Ned Curran wrote to lawmakers in April. 

"Blue Cross NC thanks senators and legislative leaders for advancing solutions to help improve healthcare access and make care more affordable for all North Carolinians. This bipartisan bill — which has been endorsed by many of North Carolina’s leading nonprofits and business organizations — would allow Blue Cross NC to remain a state-based, not-for-profit, mission-driven company and build on our state's strong business climate," a company spokesperson said in a statement shared with Becker's. 

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey opposed curbing oversight of the company's investments. In a May 4 news release, Mr. Causey said the bill is a "sure way to raise health insurance premiums for Blue Cross NC policyholders." 

"The department and I have received hundreds of emails, calls and letters from the public from across the state, and not one person has stated that they disagree with our position. I'm very concerned that consumers' concerns are falling on deaf ears," he said. 

A Blue Cross NC spokesperson said nothing in the bill would cause premiums to increase. 

"The bill enables Blue Cross NC to find new ways to address the cost premiums and improve coverage. All insurance rates in North Carolina are reviewed and approved by the NC Department of Insurance, and nothing in the legislation will change that," the spokesperson said. 

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell also opposed the bill. In January, Mr. Folwell's office awarded Aetna the state's employee health plan — a contract held by Blue Cross NC for more than 40 years. 

Blue Cross NC is challenging the decision in court. 

"The task of future oversight, not less review, and the protection of consumers are even more pressing now given that Blue Cross Blue Shield always faces the possibility of losing more large customers," Mr. Folwell said in a May 30 news release. 

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