Blue Cross to refund $155.8M to residents in North Carolina

Published 1:28 pm Friday, September 24, 2010

Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans to refund $155.8 million to more than 215,000 policyholders in North Carolina as a result of changes coming with the federal Affordable Care Act, according to N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

Goodwin says the refunds will be issued by the end of the year to policyholders who had Blue Advantage or Blue Options HAS for Individuals policies as of March 23, 2010, the date the federal law was enacted. Refunds will be proportional to premiums paid and will be equivalent to more than 150 percent of the policyholders monthly premium. For example, a policy holder with a monthly premium of about $380 will see a refund of approximately $690. Blue Cross said its customers in North Carolina can expect to receive refund checks by the end of this year.

According to Goodwin, the refunds will come from Blue Cross reserves set aside in the early years of a policy to pay future claims and keep rates stable as customers medical expenses rise during the life of the policy. Due to the changes in federal law, the reserves are no longer needed for policies purchased or substantially modified after March 23. Because those policies will end in 2014 under the new health care reform law they provide coverage for a much shorter period of time.

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Im pleased that the Department and Blue Cross were able to identify a way for $155.8 million to go back into consumers wallets, said Commissioner Goodwin. Im also glad that we were able to negotiate a lower-than-requested rate adjustment that will save $14.5 million in future premiums for policyholders.

Blue Cross had requested a 6.97 percent increase for Blue Advantage policies, but the Department of Insurance approved a 5.37 percent increase, the lowest Blue Advantage rate hike in four years.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the largest health insurer in North Carolina, providing coverage to approximately 3.7 million residents, including about 300,000 who purchase their own health insurance.


A new study by the Violence Policy Center ranks North Carolina fourth and South Carolina ninth in the country for the number of women murdered by men.

The study, based on 2008 homicide data, put Nevada at the top of the ranking with a rate of 2.96 women murdered per 100,000 people, followed by Vermont at 2.54 and Alabama at 2.07. North Carolina and South Carolina had rates of 2.05 and 1.69, respectively.

The Violence Policy Center issues an annual report based on state data for homicides involving one female murder victim and one male offender. The report also limits the incidents to those that did not involve another felony, such as rape or robbery, if such circumstances could be determined.

According to the report, 97 women in North Carolina and 39 women in South Carolina were murdered by men in 2008. For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 91 percent of the victims in North Carolina and 95 percent in South Carolina were murdered by someone they knew.

Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Georgia also were among the 10 states with the highest rates of women murdered by men. The national rate in 2008 of women killed by men in single victim/single offender instances was 1.26 per 100,000.


North Carolina and South Carolina fared well in a study analyzing health emergency preparedness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave both states high marks in a number of areas, including laboratory capabilities and the dissemination of information to the public. North Carolina scored a 98 in overall planning for emergencies and South Carolina scored a 93. A score of at least 69 is considered acceptable.

North Carolina and South Carolina both do fairly well in preparedness, said Laura Segal of the Trust&bsp; For Americas Health.

However, Segal cautioned that federal funding cuts brought on by the recession have diminished resources to respond to health emergencies, and those cuts are not reflected in the latest assessments. The CDC report measured state activities between Oct. 1, 2007 and Sept. 30, 2008. National surveys show many local health departments have experienced cuts in funds and staffing since then.


Among 10 swing states in the upcoming November election, North Carolina has the most laws and practices that support voter participation and fair elections, according to Common Cause North Carolina. The national Common Cause group, which also analyzed laws in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois and other swing states, applauded North Carolina for its early voting and efforts to increase voter registration. The group also said North Carolina has a lack of state-imposed voter ID laws and laws that suppress voter participation. The report noted North Carolina counts provisional ballots cast in the correct county but the wrong precinct.

“The stakes are high this year with the struggle for power in the state legislature at a tipping point,” said Bob Phillips, director of Common Cause North Carolina. “The rules of the game need to be fair and need to be enforced. Our report shows that North Carolina is doing well in many areas but there is also room for improvement.”

Common Cause said North Carolinas voter challenge law is too expansive and the state does not do enough outreach to Spanish-speaking voters. The group also criticized the states policy to withhold voting rights for felons until they finish parole or probation.


Several hundred people traveled to Lake Lure last weekend for the first of what is expected to be an annual Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure. Fans of the movie participated in a variety of activities, including watermelon-carrying contests, dancing on logs and lifting water, to replicate and celebrate famous scenes in the film.

The dance-packed weekend included live and DJ music from the film and the films era. Participants in the festival had a chance to learn new dance moves and watch professional dirty dancers perform. The festival was hosted by the Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber of Commerce as a benefit to the Isothermal Foundation Performing Arts Center, Hospice of Rutherford County and the Lake Lure Youth Center.


The North Carolina Mountain State Fair, which ended last weekend, attracted a near record crowd even though attendance likely was dampened by heavy rain on Saturday. The fair reported an attendance of 185,323 this year, just shy of the 187,819 record set in 2007.

We had a great fair, and tremendous support and participation by Western North Carolina residents and visitors, said Fair Manager Matt Buchanan. Had we not lost over 10,000 folks to rain on the first Saturday, we would have shattered the previous record.

Fair organizers said improvements to some buildings used at the fair helped with attendance and more improvements are planned at the Western N.C. Agricultural Center.&bsp; The fair did set a new record for pounds of food collected for MANNA Food Bank on Ingles Day. &bsp;


The Buncombe County School District has agreed to pay $345,000 to three charter schools in the county to settle claims that it did not transfer funds owed to the charter schools since the 2006-2007 school year. ArtSpace Charter School, Evergreen Community Charter School and Francine Delany New School for Children will receive the funds.

Charter schools in the state have said they should receive local education funding, distributed on a per-pupil basis, regardless of the source or type of funding.&bsp; Charter schools in other areas of the state, including Mecklenburg County and Rutherford County, have reached similar settlements with the local school districts.


UNC-Chapel Hill recognized the three African-American men who were the first to attend the university in 1955. Ralph Frasier, his brother, LeRoy Fraiser, and John Brandon, were honored at events recently marking the 55th anniversary of a federal court decision that said the university could not prohibit the men from attending the school.


The City of North Charleston has given preliminary approval to allow casino boats to operate from the city.&bsp; If the North Charleston City Council grants final approval soon, the boats could begin operation this winter.

Some residents have criticized the plan, saying the city should not support gambling activity. However, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey says gambling already exists in the area with the state lottery. City officials expected to receive revenue from the casino operations through fees and taxes. The city says it has enough room near its Riverfront Park for three companies to operate. A motion to hold a referendum on the plan failed to gain enough support on council.


North Carolina has a record number of turtle nests this year at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The national park service, which manages 68 miles of federally owned, public ocean shoreline in the state, reports 153 nests this year.&bsp; Loggerhead, green and leatherback turtles, which are considered endangered, have nests within the park. Officials in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have also reported near record numbers of nests. The park service says the reason for the increase is not clear, although an abundance of turtle food, such as horseshoe crabs and blue crabs, may have contributed, along with policies implemented to help protect turtle nests.