Source: Raleigh News & Observer Editorial ⇥
BY NED BARNETT
Wayne Goodwin, North Carolina’s insurance commissioner, isn’t a household name, but his work on behalf of consumers affects almost every household. His pushback against rising homeowners insurance rates has insurance companies suing him in state court. And his skepticism about requested hikes in auto insurance has helped give North Carolina the lowest rates in the nation.
But when it comes to health insurance rates under the Affordable Care Act, the consumer’s champion has done little. It’s not that Goodwin doesn’t want to help North Carolinians facing double-digit rate hikes. It’s that he’s not allowed.
Republicans who control the legislature are unlikely to sympathize with Goodwin’s lament. For Republicans, the messier and more expensive “Obamacare” gets in North Carolina, the better. After all, they said it would be a “trainwreck,” and in North Carolina they did all they could to bend the rails.
A 2013 law passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly barred the state from expanding Medicaid, setting up its own ACA exchange or partnering with the federal government in running one. By default, North Carolinians who want the ACA subsidies must buy insurance through the federal exchange at Healthcare.gov. The state law also ordered the Department of Insurance and the Department of Health and Human Services to return $74 million in federal aid that was intended to educate North Carolinians about the new health care law and help them choose the best plan for their circumstances.
With another round of ACA enrollment starting Nov. 1, North Carolina’s average premium increase is among the highest in the nation.
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