North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell has announced that the State Health Plan will soon be switching insurers.

The State Health Plan provides insurance coverage to nearly 750,000 teachers, law enforcement officers, retirees, and other state employees.

For more than 40 years, the plan has been administered by Durham-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

It will now be administered by Connecticut-based Aetna, which is owned by CVS Health.

What this specifically means for state employees was not immediately clear.  

Questions, however, immediately swirled around network access and whether state employees would have to switch doctors.

“One of the assets Blue Cross NC brought to the table is that almost every frigging provider in the state likely takes them,” said NC Health News in a tweet.

Blue Cross NC offers health insurance plans to individuals in all of the state’s 100 counties.

Aetna, however, does not offer individual insurance plans in 30 percent of the state’s counties.

In announcing the switch, Treasurer Folwell cited “transparency” as a primary reason for choosing Aetna.        

The process, however, has been described as “highly secretive” by NC Business Magazine.  

Multiple public record requests remain unfulfilled.

The decision was made in a closed-door board meeting.

And board members and staff were required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

SEANC, an interest group representing state employees, which has historically been a strong supporter of Treasurer Folwell, voiced skepticism about the switch.

“State employees are always weary of change,” said Executive Director Ardis Watkins in a statement. “Rest assured, we will be representing our members’ concerns and will, of course, hold the State Health Plan accountable for making sure our members are heard.”

Many questions remain unanswered.

Will state employees have to switch doctors? Will doctors be available in all counties? Will networks be reminiscent of narrow, HMO-type plans?    

These are all questions state employees, and the taxpayers who fund the $2 billion health plan, should be asking.

But until there is more transparency into the process these questions, and many more, will remain unanswered.

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