Blue Cross wants to lower rates for Obamacare policies

FILE - In this file photo taken Nov. 22, 2014, Blue Bridge Benefits LLC agent Patricia Sarabia, right, and Adolfo Briceno, left, with Spanish Speaking LLC, help a potential customer with Blue Cross Blue Shield at a kiosk promoting Obama Care at Compare Foods in Winston-Salem (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, file)

DURHAM — North Carolina’s largest health insurer says it’s figured out how to make money after six years of selling subsidized policies under the Affordable Care Act and wants to cut average premiums by more than 5% for individuals and 3% for small businesses.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said Wednesday it’s asking regulatory permission to set the lower rates for 2020.

The company also cut prices this year on individual plans offered under the federal “Obamacare” law.

Blue Cross said it’s achieving savings by switching from the years-old model of paying for each medical procedure to one which pays doctors and hospitals set amounts for treatment. The insurer says it’s also emphasizing primary care to lower costs, for example by covering three visits per year at no cost.