Assignment of Benefits (AOB) is an idea that rears its head periodically in the North Carolina General Assembly. This year it was put forward in House Bill 562 and could have cost North Carolinians as much as $2.2 billion in higher health care costs.
The basic idea is that AOB would force insurers to pay out-of-network providers – with whom they have no negotiated price – instead of reimbursing the patient. Add to that, in many cases, North Carolina law requires insurers to pay whatever the provider or hospital charges, no matter how much it is. This seemingly simple change of where to mail the check would have devastating consequences for insurance networks because it provides an incentive for doctors to stay out-of-network and charge whatever they want. Insurance networks with negotiated rates are one of the few controls we have on rising health care costs.
Even providers who chose to remain in networks would have increased ability to command higher prices. This, of course, would lead to higher insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for patients. And that is likely why special interest lobbyists pushed so hard to pass HB 562 this year.
Fortunately for North Carolina consumers, the bill did not make it out of the insurance committee. As a result, it was not taken up by the House and did not meet the crossover deadline – meaning it did not make it to the Senate in time to be considered. This was thanks in part to folks who understand the impact of health care costs on North Carolina families and businesses. This includes people like , the NC State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) who shared the following:
HB 562 is effectively dead. But we’ve seen enough zombie shows to know that does not mean the ideas it contained cannot come back in another form. Make sure to join the Coalition to stay updated on the future of AOB and all the threats by special interests on your health care costs.