Friday, April 8, 2011

Establishing a Health Benefits Exchange: Call to Action

On Tuesday, April 12, the North Carolina House of Representatives' Insurance Committee will hear House Bill 115, legislation to establish a Health Benefits Exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, states are encouraged to establish this new web-based marketplace for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance. The Exchange should foster competition to ensure that health insurance is affordable (benefit coverage costs will NOT be based on pre-existing medical conditions) and allow for health plans to be easily comparable.

However, under the current version of HB 115 that recently passed the NC House Health Committee, at least two seats (and possibly more) on the Exchange's board are reserved specifically for health insurers – so health insurers will be regulating themselves in this new insurance market.

Also, as designed in this version of the bill, there is no consumer accountability of the exchange. The legislation prevents the Exchange from requiring plans only be offered that meet consumer-friendly requirements like being easy to compare and offering easy-to-understand benefits. Without a strong consumer accountable exchange, consumers will continue to have little choice purchasing their health coverage.

And finally this new legislation taxes individuals by placing a user fee on exchange small business employer members and those individuals earning more than 400% of the federal poverty level and small businesses.

Email your North Carolina Representative through the National MS Society's website to ask them to oppose HB 115.

For more information on establishing a consumer-friendly Health Benefits Exchange in North Carolina, please visit The North Carolina Chapters of the National MS Society are members of Citizens for Responsible Health Care.
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