If you’re looking to find a smashing Obamacare success story—a place where the nation’s biggest and most controversial new law in a generation has truly lived up to its promise—you might stick a pin directly in North Carolina.
The central pledge of the Affordable Care Act was to make insurance available to people who didn’t have it, creating a new safety net for millions nationwide. And in North Carolina that’s exactly what happened. People flocked to the program: More than 600,000 people there signed up for Obamacare policies in 2016, and roughly 90 percent of those got financial help to pay their insurance bills, also through Obamacare. Thanks directly to the ACA, the number of people without health insurance in North Carolina has plummeted by 30 percent in the past three years. Far more people are covered, and far more of them can afford their health insurance.
But if you’re looking for a quintessential Obamacare failure story, you might also stick that pin directly in North Carolina. For the insurance companies doing business in the state–the ones issuing policies to those 600,000 people–Obamacare has turned into a financial sinkhole. UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest insurance company, is pulling out of the Obamacare business in North Carolina next year. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, which dominated the individual market with more than a half-million customers, reported that losses on its Obamacare business in 2014 and 2015 topped $400 million. The insurer said that figure includes government payments designed to shield insurers from big losses during the early years of Obamacare. The only other current competitor, Aetna, wants to hike rates by nearly 25 percent next year.