DURHAM — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina will be reducing rates by an average of 1 percent statewide for 2021 Affordable Care Act plans offered to individuals. This is the third straight year that Blue Cross NC has lowered rates — a three-year total reduction since 2018 of over $380 million.

“We’re pleased to make health insurance more affordable for North Carolinians who buy their own coverage from the individual market,” said Tunde Sotunde, president and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “Our customers can continue to count on us as they navigate challenges during this pandemic and beyond. We will again offer ACA plans in all 100 North Carolina counties, as we have since the beginning of the ACA in 2014.”

The decrease is a result of the company’s efforts to hold down costs while ensuring high-quality health care for members, it said.

2021 rates take into account two unexpected and fluid circumstances — the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and customers’ deferral of non-urgent care. After many customers deferred care in March through May, a large number have recently resumed elective procedures, which is reflected in a significant increase in customers’ medical claims for June and July.

Many experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are predicting a spike of COVID-19 cases in the fall. Experts also expect COVID-19 to contribute to an increase in customers’ medical costs in 2021. While Blue Cross NC did not include a significant adjustment in its individual 2021 rates due to COVID-19 costs, the long-term cost impacts of COVID-19 are still largely unknown.

While a majority of regions will see average rate decreases, customers’ premium amounts depend on federal premium subsidy levels, which will be available on Nov. 1. Each year customers should shop for plans to find the lowest-cost plan from Blue Cross NC that meets their needs in 2021.

Premium subsidies are available for customers with household incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. About 84 percent of Blue Cross NC’s current customers with individual ACA plans qualify for subsidies in 2020.

Individual premiums will be available in October. Open enrollment for ACA plans begins on Nov. 1, 2020, and ends on Dec. 15, 2020.

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