State treasurer says health plan premiums frozen again for 6th straight year

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RALEIGH — North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell says State Health Plan premiums will remain frozen for the sixth straight year. 

Per a press release from Folwell’s office, he and the Board of Trustees voted on July 27 to maintain active State Health Plan members’ premiums at current rates into the 2024 benefit year that starts on Jan. 1. Premiums for Medicare-eligible members on the Humana Group Medicare Advantage Plans will also be frozen. 

Folwell discussed the premium freeze during his monthly call with reporters on Aug. 1, attributing the freeze to “Great negotiations with our Medicare Advantage product, which has about 145,000 people on it over the age of 65.”  

The treasurer also cited the “dedication of the state employees” who work in the state health plan who “watch the pennies and the paper clips.” Citing partnerships with State Health Plan directors, Folwell said “well over $1 million” in administration expenses. 

The Medicare Advantage Plan costs taxpayers nothing and “offers spousal coverage to eligible members for only $4, compared to $425 on the Base PPO Plan (70/30),” per Folwell’s office. Additionally, active and non-Medicare members will be automatically enrolled in the Base PPO Plan (70/30) for the 2024 benefit year. Any members wishing to make changes to their current plan can do so during open enrollment between Oct. 9-27 of this year. 

Folwell said people should care about the premium freeze because “we have entry-level people who come to work for the state of North Carolina, who have to work one week out of every four to pay the family premium.” 

“We’re not satisfied with freezing the premiums,” Folwell explained. “What we actually want to do is we want to lower the premiums” to get “young, healthy people under our plan” to offset older people around his age.  

“That’s how self-funded insurance companies work,” said Folwell “And I believe that by actually lowering the family premium, we could attract young, healthy people to the plan to offset people my age, which could make the plan sustainable going forward.” 

He went on to say another issue is a “massive unfunded health care liability over nearly $25 billion.” 

When asked if there were updates to the legal challenge by Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina over the change in the State Health Plan’s Third-Party Administrator (TPA) Contract, Folwell said, “They are going to sue us until they’re blue.” 

Folwell announced this past January that Aetna was chosen to be the State Health Plan’s TPA beginning in 2025. The decision was made in December 2020 through a unanimous vote by the State Health Plan Board of Trustees following a competitive bidding process. Both Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare filed legal challenges, but UnitedHealthcare dropped its complaint in April.  

“They want to create as much chaos as they possibly can to make sure that this rollout is not successful,” said Folwell.  

He also said, “Aetna is working diligently” and has “hundreds of people dedicated to our account.” 

About A.P. Dillon 1131 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_