Blue Cross takes Obamacare pitch to North Carolina communities


Folks can walk in off the street to get more information at Blue Cross and Blue Shield stores set up across North Carolina.  But the company is also taking its sales pitch right into communities - specifically the African-American community.

A hotel ballroom in North Hills on Monday was filled with community leaders, church pastors , salon and barbershop owners - all  people who have inroads into North Carolina's black community.

They were invited by Blue Cross to get a crash course on the Affordable Care Act. The company is hoping to be the primary provider of health coverage for the segment of the population that these folks represent.

A disproportionate amount of North Carolinians with no health insurance also happen to be black.

"There is 23 percent of the uninsured market in North Carolina that is African-American. We want to make sure we provide that information to those African-Americans so they can know how this law is going to benefit them," explained Roy Watson with Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Blue Cross published its proposed rates for coverage last week, but a big unknown is how much the federal government will subsidize the health care plans that are offered.

Nationally, starting Oct. 1, those who don't have health care coverage on the job can go to online insurance markets - also called exchanges - in their states to shop for a private plan and find out if they qualify for a tax credit. An estimated 4 out 5 consumers in the new markets will be eligible for some level of tax credit.

Come Jan. 1, virtually all Americans will be required to have coverage, or face fines. At the same time, insurance companies will no longer be able to turn away people in poor health.

Four levels of plans will be available under Obama's law: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze plans will cover 60 percent of expected medical costs; silver plans will cover 70 percent; gold will cover 80 percent and platinum 90 percent.

All plans cover the same benefits, but bronze features the lowest premiums, paired with higher deductibles and copays. Platinum plans would have the lowest out-of-pocket costs and the highest premiums.

A study by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that government tax credits would lower the sticker price on a benchmark "silver" policy to a little over $190 a month for single people making about $29,000, regardless of their age.

By pairing their tax credit with a stripped-down "bronze" policy, some younger consumers can bring their premiums down to the range of $100 to $140 a month, while older people can drive their monthly cost even lower - well below $100 - if they are willing to take a chance with higher deductibles and copays.

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