North Carolina plans state-federal online insurance market

10:09 am | November 16, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina and the federal government will jointly run a new one-stop shop to help people buy affordable health insurance, Gov. Beverly Perdue said Thursday.

Perdue, a Democrat, said she consulted with Gov.-elect Pat McCrory, a Republican, and chose a state-federal partnership to operate the health insurance exchange required by the Affordable Care Act. North Carolina lawmakers failed to establish the framework for a state-run insurance exchange in time for the initial launching late next year, Perdue said, and the only other option was for the federal government to fully run it.

After President Barack Obama was re-elected last week, North Carolina was among dozens of states scrambling to produce a blueprint for a marketplace of private health plans for individuals and small businesses having difficulty finding affordable coverage.

“Finally we’ve realized it is the law of the land given the federal election results,” Perdue said. “There now will be concentrated energy on implementing sections of the act. We’ll continue to have questions and concerns I’m sure.”

Republican governors in Virginia and Alabama have indicated they’ll allow the federal government to set up the market in their states rather than take a role in the next phase of the federal health care overhaul known as Obamacare. Other states have moved forward with plans to establish their own exchanges.

North Carolina lawmakers started work in 2011 on creating an exchange, but progress stalled as Republican leaders waited to see if the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the heath care overhaul. The high court cleared the law in June, days before lawmakers wrapped up their two-year session. Legislators did, however, express their intent to establish an exchange.

McCrory spokesman Ricky Diaz did not return calls Thursday asking whether the incoming governor agreed with Perdue’s plans. The hybrid system can be changed later to all-state or all-federal management.

“This decision allows him (McCrory) the opportunity to then, in his own good time, make a decision that will be permanent for the state,” Perdue said.

One goal of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul is reducing the number of state residents under age 65 who were without health insurance in 2010.

The law also provides federal funds to cover most of the early costs of expanding Medicaid to cover more uninsured families. McCrory and the GOP-controlled Legislature will have to decide whether to proceed and whether the state can afford its future share of the costs, state Health and Human Services Secretary Al Delia said.

North Carolina also is asking the federal government for money to help defray the cost of establishing an online exchange. State officials on Thursday were finalizing a grant application seeking money to help the state Insurance Department with management and consumer assistance costs, and the Department of Health and Human Services with IT costs, said Kerry Hall, a spokeswoman for the insurance agency.

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