Insurance Companies Continue Retreat from Marketplace

Competition in the health insurance marketplace has come to a near standstill. The numerous options for plans included dropping prices, while the opposite actually happened. In many states, the options have dwindled to one or none, while more price hikes are expected.

Health insurance companies had until yesterday to announce if they would sell plans on the exchange in the fall. Rates won’t be set until later this summer, closer to the November 1 enrollment period start. Most insurers plan premium increases over 20 percent. Over 40 percent of counties in America will have only one insurer on the exchange, while counties in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and Washington will have none – unless another insurer steps in.

Anthem announced Wednesday that it is leaving the exchanges of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. Insurer Medica will return to Iowa next year, but will raise rates over 43 percent on average. Nationwide prices for individual insurance may increase 28 to 40 percent.

Insurers have had huge losses on these exchange plans since they started in 2014. Big companies Humana, Aetna, and UnitedHealth have left the exchanges completely or remain in just a few states. Blue Cross-Blue Shield has spent decades in their markets and are hesitant to leave, seeing themselves as the “insurer of last resort”. Insurance companies are still worried about bringing in enough healthy people to balance the claims of the sick, as repeated price hikes are making insurance less attractive.

Centene and Oscar are expanding into new markets. Centene manages Medicaid and is marketing Medicaid-type plans to low-income customers in areas where it already has a presence.

Insurers are relying on the federal tax credits and subsidies, which cover most of the insurance bill for many purchasing plans on the exchange. Companies can raise premiums to prevent losses and not worry about hurting most plan holders, since the taxpayers are going to pay for it.
Murphy, Tom. “Government health insurance markets holding up—barely.” Health. ABC News, 21 Jun 2017. Web. 22 Jun 2017.

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