Thursday, September 07, 2017

Insurer leaves part of Va. without individual Obamacare plans; Ky. now has just one choice

Two insurers announced this week that they will stop offering individual marketplace insurance in areas of Virginia and Kentucky in 2018. It's a manifestation of insurers' deep uncertainty about the future of health care in America. Congress may still try to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which established the marketplace exchanges; the Trump administration has cut funding for advertising ACA plans by 90 percent; and President Trump has threatened to withhold the federal cost-sharing subsidies that make it possible for insurers to offer deeply discounted plans for the poor. Insurers have until Sept. 27 to make final commitments for 2018, Anne Mathews reports for The Wall Street Journal.

The first insurer to announce withdrawal this week, Optima Health, will cut its Virginia footprint in half. That means that around 70,000 Virginians will have no insurance options next year unless another insurer steps in to fill the gap, Mathews writes. In other states where all insurers withdrew, others specializing in plans for low-income people have stepped in to fill the vacuums. All U.S. counties in had Obamacare insurance choices as of Aug. 25.
Bloomberg interactive map updated as of Sept. 7. Click on image to enlarge. Click here for interactive version.
Optima, owned by major hospital system Sentara, said in a press release that it would only offer individual insurance in areas supported by Sentara hospitals. "A spokeswoman for Optima Health said that the insurer’s decision was tied to other insurers' withdrawals from Virginia’s exchange, which left the company concerned that it would enroll more people than it could handle if it maintained the broad geographic footprint that it had earlier filed to offer. Anthem, which is withdrawing and pulling back from exchanges in many states, announced on Aug. 11 that it would leave the Virginia marketplace next year," Mathews reports.

Anthem similarly announced on Sept. 6 that it would cut in half the number of Kentucky counties in which it will offer individual Obamacare plans in 2018. "Anthem's decision to sell individual plans in just 59 counties in Kentucky comes more than two months after the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer filed proposed rates for health plans in 2018 for all 120 counties in the state," Dan Mangan reports for CNBC. "So far, Anthem has announced that it will significantly reduce its Obamacare footprint next year in nine out of the 14 states where it currently sells individual health plans both on and outside of government-run marketplaces." The pullback in those states will not affect Anthem's group insurance or Medicaid plans.

The Kentucky Department of Insurance told Mangan that the areas Anthem is vacating will be covered by CareSource, which specializes in managing Medicaid programs for the poor.

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