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Learning about North Carolina Health Insurance

August 16th, 2018

North Carolinians already know that we live in a wonderful and special place. It is not often that you can make a trip from the most beautiful mountain tops to the crystal clear waters of our coast in just a day. With North Carolina having so much to offer, it is not surprising that our population is growing, and more and more people are choosing North Carolina to call home.

Because the health Insurance industry is regulated partially at the state level, living in North Carolina can directly affect the health insurance that is available to you, and how and when you can apply. Whether you have deep roots or have just become a resident of “The Old North State”, these are some things that all North Carolinians should know about North Carolina Health Insurance:

What Types of Coverage are available to me in NC?
Residents of North Carolina have two major types of individual/family insurance available to them, Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant, also referred to as “Obamacare”, and other alternatives like Short Term coverage. ACA-compliant plans are required to cover the same set of essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act laws. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina offers the broad majority of these plans across the entire state. Short Term plans are not ACA compliant, but allow individuals and families to enroll outside of Open Enrollment Periods without a Qualifying Event. These plans do not cover pre-existing conditions, but are often more affordable than ACA compliant plans.

When Can I Apply?
The Open Enrollment Period is a yearly period when individuals and families can enroll in health insurance. Open enrollment for 2018 will begin on November 1st and last until December 15th. Open Enrollment is a very important time period because all individuals are eligible to enroll. If you miss Open Enrollment, you must qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. To qualify for Special Enrollment, you have to experience a Qualifying Life Event. Qualifiers such as getting married, having a baby or losing coverage provided by an employer could make you eligible to enroll during Special Enrollment, as long as you enroll within 60 days of the life altering event.

Is it Affordable?
One of the amenities of the Affordable Care Act is federal tax credits, also known as subsidies. Subsidies are designed to lower the cost of health insurance for low and middle income individuals or families. If you are eligible for a subsidy, it could greatly reduce the cost of your monthly premium. Generate a Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC health insurance quote to find out more about whether you are eligible for a subsidy.

At NC Health Plans/Jerry Ballard & Associates Inc., we love living in North Carolina and take pride in serving North Carolinians statewide. Our website allows you to generate quotes, shop for plans, and apply online at your convenience. If we can assist you in selecting a health insurance plan, please call us at 888-765-5400. We are North Carolinians serving North Carolinians!

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Rates and Changes

August 3rd, 2018

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina announced on July 31st the company has filed for an average rate decrease of 4.1% on Affordable Care Act individual health plans for 2019.  This will mark the first year North Carolina’s largest health insurance company has filed for a rate decrease on individual plans after several years of double digit increases since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

“We’re moving in the right direction, but even with a lower rate, premiums are still too high — particularly for those who don’t get a subsidy,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC’s President and CEO.  “With more certainty from Washington, rates would be 15 percent or more lower. We must address both market instability and the rising price of health care.”

A number of factors contributed to this rate filing.  Brian Tajlili is BCBSNC’s Director of Actuarial and Pricing Services.  He references: the cost of providing medical services and prescription drugs for members, new provider arrangements that will reduce costs, the suspension of the federal Health Insurer Tax, and the elimination of the individual mandate penalty; as a few of these contributing factors.

Although the overall average rate will decrease on plans across the state of North Carolina, some counties will still see rate increases.  The counties that do see a rate increase will not incur increases over 10%.  Blue Cross will not release the exact rates for plans until closer to the start of Open Enrollment on November 1st.

Other Changes to Blue Plans

Another of the most significant Blue Cross NC plans will take place in the Triangle and surrounding regions.  The Blue Local with Duke Health and Wake Med will be discontinued in 2019.  This plan currently covers approximately 50,000 members in 12 counties.  These members will be receiving notices in the coming months to help prepare for the transition to new plans.  Alternatives to the Blue Local with Duke and Wake Med will depend on which county the member resides in.

Transitional Plans will continue to be offered in 2019.  Transitional plans are plans purchased between March 2010 and October 2013.  These plans do not meet the ACA requirements and are only offered to existing customers.

More details on these changes and others will likely continue in the months ahead.  Blue Cross Blue Shield NC has filed for plans in all 100 counties of North Carolina for 2019 and continues to be the only insurer in North Carolina that offers Individual ACA health plans in all counties.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

North Carolina Health Insurance when Turning 26

August 1st, 2018

If you were born in ‘92, we want to wish you a happy 26th birthday! Another trip around the sun is always something to celebrate and be thankful for, and we hope that this upcoming year is your best one yet! Adults in their mid-twenties find themselves in many different walks of life. Whether you have gotten married, had children, graduated, or simply having fun, there is something all 26 year-olds have in common. That is, that you’re aging out of your parents’ insurance plan!

Health Insurance shoppers at this age often call us with concern, saying, “I have never shopped for insurance before and don’t know what to do or where to start!” We realize that navigating this transition and the insurance market can be stressful and overwhelming.  However, it is not something to put on the back burner or avoid! Here are some helpful things you should know about applying for insurance:

  • You have 60 days!

Turning 26 and aging out of your parent’s health insurance plan is considered a Qualifying Life Event.  This qualifying event will provide you a 60 day window outside the Open Enrollment Period to enroll in a new plan.  Make sure you know when this starts and stops in order to avoid any lapse in coverage.

  • You can save money!

Based on your household income, you may be eligible for a federal subsidy which can greatly reduce the cost of your monthly premiums. Generate a Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC health insurance quote to find out more about whether you are eligible for a subsidy.

  • Don’t go uninsured!

Did you know that under the health care law, you must have qualifying health coverage? Without it, you may face a penalty on your next tax return. In addition, it is important to have protection and quality coverage to maintain your health, or in case of sickness or an accident!

  • Don’t stress! It’s easier than you think!

This process can seem overwhelming. However, it is easier than you think. We are here to help you through the entire application process right over the phone, and it only takes about 25 minutes to apply for health insurance!

As you are thinking about your 26th birthday celebration, remember your health insurance – and don’t let those 60 days slip away! Here’s to many more years of health and happiness!

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

Meet Our Newest Team Member, Savannah Clark

July 23rd, 2018

Savannah Clark is the newest member of our team at Jerry Ballard & Associates, Inc. and will be specializing in providing exceptional customer service to all our North Carolina customers.  Savannah graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a BS degree in elementary education and a concentration in the Arts.  She is also studying to acquire her North Carolina Life and Health Insurance License and looking forward to an exciting and long term career with our Agency.

A native of Eastern North Carolina, she was born and raised in Carteret County and absolutely loves it, and as she says, her roots are deep.  She attended St. Egberts Catholic school and graduated from West Carteret High School.  In the summer she loves spending time with family and friends boating and going to the beach.  She also enjoys painting as a hobby in her spare time.

Savannah brings excitement and enthusiasm to assist all of our Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina clients with their customer service needs.  She is patient, empathetic, and passionately communicative.  Her ability to place herself in the shoes of the customer and advocate for them when necessary makes her a pleasure to work with and a true asset to our team.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.  Our Agency can guide you through the complete application process, on or off the Marketplace for any plans offered, including, but not limited to, Bronze, Silver, and Gold Plans, Medicare Supplement Plans, Dental Blue and Short Term plans.


Blue Cross NC’s New Leadership Provides New Perspective

June 19th, 2018

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina welcomed a new President and CEO to the company in December 2017.  While Dr. Patrick Conway has a unique background coming from the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services, his continued role as a practicing pediatrician provides a perspective that is unlike many others serving as the lead executive of a major health insurance carrier.

Dr. Conway’s list of accomplishments prior to taking over as CEO at Blue Cross NC is nothing short of impressive.  The various positions he’s held in health care contribute to the various perspectives he’s able to provide.  These experiences have prepared him for the often difficult discussions surrounding health care and health insurance.  Above many of these experiences, is his role as a practicing pediatrician.  This ongoing practice is something that allows him to see health care from a perspective most other Chief Executives know little about.

It’s no secret that the relationship between healthcare providers and health insurance companies is sometimes considered very disconnected.  The two parties are considered to have separate interests.  These separate interests can easily result in arrangements that damage the care needed by the members and patients.  The consumers are frequently left feeling powerless and stuck in the middle.

Dr. Conway’s experiences and ongoing direct interaction with patients is a dynamic that could provide some different perspective.  He recently wrote a blog about the being a practicing MD while also leading a major health insurance company.  It’s already becoming clear that as the new leader of BCBSNC, he brings a new vision to the company and health care in North Carolina.

For now, please join us in welcoming Dr. Patrick Conway and watching as he begins his work in the continued effort of improving health care in North Carolina.


For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

Pause to Remember Memorial Day

May 28th, 2018

Memorials in Cemetery with American FlagsBlue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina knows a lot about working to give the residents of NC the peace of mind that comes from knowing you and your family are covered for all of your health care needs.  BCBSNC understands the value implicit in being covered when it counts.  As Americans, however, Memorial Day is a sobering reminder that peace of mind and knowing someone has your back in times of trouble doesn’t come free.   That is what Memorial Day is all about.  This weekend we celebrate the men and women of the Armed Forces, both past and present, who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and protection.

Although Memorial Day is typically, and I think appropriately, celebrated by throwing some burgers on the grill in the backyard, the holiday has some important origins.  Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed every year on the last Monday of May.  The holiday originated after the American Civil War to honor soldiers of both the Union and Confederate armies who had died during the war.  Even today, many people visit cemeteries or war memorials on this day and hundreds of volunteers place a small American flag on each grave in the national cemeteries.  Not to be confused with Veteran’s Day, which honors all the men and women of the Armed Forces, Memorial Day is a day specifically intended to celebrate and remember the service members who died while serving.

The traditional observance of Memorial Day is as follows:  The United States flag is raised to the top of the staff and then slowly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains until noon.  The half-staff position is in memory of the more than one million men and women who have given their lives in service of their country.  At noon, the flag is then raised by the living to full-staff as a symbolic resolution not to let the sacrifice of the dead be in vain, but to stand in their place and continue to fight for liberty.

This Memorial Day, while we are grilling burgers, taking our kids to the beach or taking our boats out to sea with friends, let us a take a moment and be thankful for the freedom we still enjoy.  It may sound pithy, but freedom really isn’t free and the fact that we can do the things we love the most is a gift for which many men and women have given their lives.

For more information on acquiring Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina health insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.


Medicare Supplement Plan F vs Plan G

May 8th, 2018

For years, the Medicare Supplement Plan F has been the most popular of the Supplemental plans.  The plan is currently the richest benefit Medicare Supplement available in most states.  It provides coverage for all the gaps in Original Medicare.  The extremely high level of benefits has drawn Medicare shopper’s attention and has helped it develop a well-known reputation with consumers of Medicare Supplement plans.  Despite being the richest benefit plan, we often find there is a better plan option when a comparison is made.

The Plan G is almost identical to the Plan F with one exception- the Part B deductible.  The Part B deductible in 2018 is $183.  The Plan G does not provide coverage for this deductible which means the member would be responsible for paying this amount of $183 out of pocket when incurring Medical expenses for things like doctor’s office visits.  Once the Part B deductible is met, the Plan G pays exactly the same benefits as the Plan F.

In recent years, the monthly premiums for the Plan G have become significantly less than the Plan F premiums.  These lower premiums have made the Plan G a very attractive plan for shoppers.

Comparing the two plans is actually pretty simple.  If the premium savings over the course of the year exceeds the Part B deductible, the Medicare beneficiary will be better off on a Plan G.  For example: If the Plan F is $150/month and the Plan G is $120/mo, the beneficiary will save $30 per month on Plan G.  That is a $360 difference in premium over a year, but then figure in the Part B deductible (which is $183 in 2018) and the total savings over the year equals $177.  Because the math almost always makes the Plan G a better fit, we have seen this plan significantly grow in popularity over the past several years.

It’s important to do this comparison when considering these two options.  Let our Medicare Advisors help you through this process and see whether you could save money by comparing the difference in the Medicare Supplement Plan F vs Plan G.  If you are an existing Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Medicare Supplement member, you are able to make a change to your Medicare Supplement plan during the month of May without having to answer health questions in order to qualify.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

6 Topics to Consider Outside Open Enrollment

March 16th, 2018

Whether you are enrolled in Medicare, Health Insurance, or are uninsured, there are some concepts, rules and requirements to consider outside the Annual Enrollment Periods.  Here is a list of a few basics to consider about insurance despite currently being outside the heavily publicized Open Enrollment Periods.

  1. 1095 Tax Forms– As most are filing taxes this time of year, don’t forget the IRS may require you to show proof of health insurance. The 1095 tax forms serve as proof of health insurance coverage.  These 1095 forms can be provided by the Health Insurance Marketplace or by a private insurance carrier, depending on how you are enrolled.  We recommend consulting a Certified Public Accountant for more information on about the need for these forms.
  2. Short Term Health Insurance– If you are currently uninsured and have not recently experienced a Qualifying Event that would allow you to enroll in a qualified health insurance plan, a short term health plan may be an option. Short term plans do not comply with the Affordable Care Act regulations which allows shoppers to enroll in these plan outside the Open Enrollment Period.  You could qualify for coverage to begin as early as the next day.
  3. Medicare Supplements “Blue to Blue”– If you are an existing Blue Cross of NC Medicare Supplement member, you are currently able to make a change to your Medicare Supplement plan during the month of May to take effect on June 1st. See rates for alternative Medicare Supplement plans here.  The capability to change plans during this time frame is through the Blue to Blue program.
  4. Dental Insurance– Don’t forget your smile! Dental insurance plans can be enrolled in anytime throughout the course of the year.  These plans are not regulated like health insurance plans by separate enrollment periods.  Learn More about BCBSNC Dental Insurance
  5. Qualifying Life Events– If you have experienced a Qualifying Life Event, this could allow you to make a change to your health plan or enroll in a new plan. Get a Blue Cross Quote to see whether any of the Qualifying Events apply to you.
  6. Report Income Changes to the Marketplace– If you are enrolled in a health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace and you have experienced an income change, it’s important to report this change to the Marketplace. Income changes can impact health insurance plan rates and coverage.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

Don’t Forget Your Dental Blue with BCBSNC

March 13th, 2018

Though the 2018 Health Insurance and Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Periods are now behind us, many people forget they can still shop for dental insurance.  Dental Insurance is not subject to any designated enrollment period like Medicare and Health Insurance plans.  The BCBSNC Dental Blue plans can be applied for anytime throughout the year.  The only deadlines to consider are the application effective date deadlines.  Blue Cross of NC requires applicants to apply for the Dental Blue coverage by the 15th of the month in order to qualify for an effective date of the 1st of the following month.  Aside from this regulation, shoppers should also consider the waiting periods for certain covered services.  Generate a quote to learn more about the coverages and waiting periods.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC also made a few notable changes to the Dental Blue plan in 2018.  First, seniors are now eligible for the same coverage as customers under the age of 65.  This means Dental Blue members that are over age 65 no longer have a co-payment for preventive care visits.  The preventive care visits are now covered at 100% just as they have always been for the under 65 Dental Blue members.  Please generate a quote and see the brochure for more details on the preventive care coverage.  Next, the coinsurance percentages have changed for Basic services.  These services are now covered at a higher percentage than in years past.

Studies have also shown that oral health may be related to numerous other health conditions and diseases.  This is another good reason to make sure you don’t neglect the need for regular routine dental care.  The Mayo Clinic explains more about which conditions and diseases have been linked to oral health and dental hygiene.

Kennon Wainwright a Leader in the North Carolina Medicare Market

February 14th, 2018

At Jerry Ballard & Associates we strive for excellence and like to recognize outstanding performance by our Agents.  We would like to announce some of these achievements in our Medicare, over 65 Market through Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), for high standards and production.  Our Agency Manager, Kennon Wainwright,  finished Number 1 in our region for top production in Medicare Supplement coverage and Number 2 overall in the State of North Carolina.  He also placed Number 2 in our Region on Medicare Advantage sales and Number 3 overall in the State of North Carolina.  We offer all North Carolina Medicare products through our Carrier, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC.

If you are turning 65 or transitioning to Medicare in the next 6 months, give Kennon a call and let him guide you through this cumbersome and confusing process.  He is happy to to go over all the different supplement plans offered through our Agency and provide all the tools and information necessary to make the best choice.  If you would like to generate a quote for these Medicare Plans CLICK HERE to begin.

We also offer Senior Dental Plans through BCBSNC.  If you would like to generate a quote and/or Apply on Line, please CLICK HERE to get started.

Kennon resides on the coast in beautiful Morehead City, North Carolina with his wife and children.  He attended Virginia Episcopal for High School before entering The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   Kennon is a tremendous asset to our agency and brings knowledge about all BCBSNC products to best serve you and all your insurance needs.

2018 Open Enrollment for Health Insurance and Medicare Plans

August 22nd, 2017

The Annual Open Enrollment Period is the one time of the year when eligible customers can start new coverage or make changes to existing coverage.  The Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Period and the Health Insurance Annual Open Enrollment Period have different dates and serve different groups of eligible customers.

Individual Health Insurance

The 2018 Health Insurance Annual Open Enrollment Period under the Affordable Care Act will begin on November 1st, 2017 and last until December 15th, 2017 for a plan that will take effect on January 1st, 2018.  These dates are different than prior years and the time period is much shorter.  Any new enrollment or change to an existing health plan must be done between these dates unless one has experienced a Qualifying Life Event which could allow for changes outside this window.  If an Individual Health Insurance plan is not required to follow these enrollment guidelines, the plan is likely not compliant with the Affordable Care Act regulations.

During the Open Enrollment Period, applications and changes to plans can be made through numerous different avenues.  For this reason, it’s always a good idea to contact an agent for guidance on the easiest ways to enroll or make changes to your health plan.  You can speak with one of our qualified representatives for more information or assistance enrolling in a plan.  Call our toll free number today 888-765-5400.

Medicare Plans

The 2018 Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Period will begin on Oct 15th, 2017 and last until December 7th, 2017 for a plan that will take effect on January 1st, 2018.  This Enrollment Period is set up for Medicare Advantage Plans and Part D Prescription Drug Plans.  Both plans are offered through private insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC.  Medicare also has other Enrollment Periods for times like a 65th birthday or Qualifying Events, which may also enable customers to enroll in Medicare Plans.

Medicare eligible customers are typically over the age of 65 or under 65 with certain disabilities.  If a person is enrolled in Medicare, they would not also be eligible for an Individual Health Insurance plan.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.

Happy July 4th from NC Health Plans

June 29th, 2017

NC Health Plans wishes you a Happy Independence Day.  July 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays. Because freedom is something to savor. To enjoy. To celebrate. But most of all to appreciate.

Never should we take the precious freedoms we daily enjoy for granted. Freedom was not cheap. Freedom was a dream purchased with the blood of our forbearers.

One of the most enjoyable and exciting ways to celebrate our nation’s independence is to set off some fireworks. This 4th of July, it’s important to remember that fireworks can be dangerous. They can cause burns and eye injuries in both children and adults, as well as more serious injuries. Of course, the best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home and take your family to your local public fireworks display and leave the show to the professionals.

So today, as we celebrate with parades, BBQ and fireworks. Let’s remember and be thankful. God Bless America, and may we continue to be the shining example of freedom.

For more information on North Carolina insurance coverage, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.