Monday, May 16, 2016

More than 650 mostly rural counties will have only one Obamacare exchange option in 2017

Residents in more than 650 counties, mainly rural, will only have one insurance option when shopping for Affordable Care Act health insurance in 2017, Anna Wilde Mathews and Stephanie Armour report for The Wall Street Journal. "The entire states of Alaska and Alabama are expected to have only one insurer on the health law’s signature online marketplaces next year, according to state regulators. The same is expected to be true in parts of several other states, including Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma, state regulators said."

In 2016 the number of counties with only one option was 225, "when the state of Wyoming, among other areas, already had just one ACA marketplace competitor," Mathews and Armour write. "Of the counties in jeopardy of having only a single exchange insurer next year, 70 percent have populations that are mostly rural," according to Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation. She said "disclosures of new market entries or further pullbacks will change the totals in coming months. Filings in many states aren’t yet public, and insurers can tweak their approaches until September." (WSJ graphic)
"UnitedHealth Group Inc. said last month it would leave all but a handful of the 34 states where it sold exchange plans this year amid losses; Humana Inc. is also pulling out of some areas," Mathews and Armour write. "Others are sticking around: Anthem Inc. has said it would continue selling exchange plans in its current 14 states. Aetna Inc. will remain in its 15 states and has said it may enter more, and Cigna Corp. plans to extend beyond the seven states where it currently sells exchange plans. Premera Blue Cross said all of its subsidiaries would stop selling ACA marketplace plans in a dozen largely rural counties in its home state of Washington. It will also pull out of Oregon, where it has used the LifeWise brand."

Insurance companies say rural areas have "fewer, less-competitive health-care providers that weren’t willing to strike the payment deals the insurer sought," Mathews and Armour write. "A new analysis by Inovalon Inc., a health-technology firm, shows why rural areas are often less inviting for insurers. Using a health-insurance claims database that includes about two million exchange enrollees, Inovalon found that rural residents racked up significantly higher medical costs than urban enrollees in 2015." (Read more)

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