State employees in NC to share cost of COVID-related illness

State - Regional

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Last year, most health insurance providers waived the cost that customers had to pay for COVID-related illnesses, including hospitalizations.

Under no legal obligation to do that and with vaccines available, many of those same insurers will no longer waive cost-sharing.

That includes Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina which is the provider for more than 725,000 state employees, their family members and retirees.

“We don’t want to do anything that would discourage any public servant, those who teach, protect and otherwise serve no matter how much money they make from getting the services they need,” said North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell.

Folwell’s office runs the state health plan.

He said family premiums have been frozen for five years and individuals premiums for four years.

Folwell hopes that will help with any COVID-related costs, but recognizes those on the lower end of the pay scale could face big problems when dealing with out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

“Most North Carolinians who are at that level of income are one medical bill, one surprise bill, one out-of-network bill away from being economically blown up,” said Folwell.

He also said the state health plan has already paid $175 million for testing and vaccination efforts and has yet to be reimbursed.

Folwell survived COVID-19 after being placed in the ICU last year.

“But for the grace of God I wouldn’t be standing here,” he said.

Some analysts say vaccine availability gives health insurers a reason to opt of waiving any cost-sharing while some critics say it’s more about profit.

Speaking from his own experience, Folwell said people have to make their own effort to stay out of the hospital.

“In addition to masks and vaccinations, nothing replaces the courtesy and common sense associated with the things that we’ve been living under regarding how to be safe and keep ourselves safe,” he said.

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