Largest US Health Insurer Exits California, Illinois Obamacare Markets

Just over a month ago, we reported that in addition to Georgie, Arkansas, Michigan and Oklahoma, the largest US health insurer UnitedHealthcare announced it would also depart the following "Affordable" Care Act state exchanges: Connecticut, North Carolina; Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Texas. That, however, was just a preview of what's to come, because on April 19, UnitedHealthcare made its divorce with Obamacare complete when it announced plans to exit most of the Affordable Care Act state exchanges where it currently operates by 2017. And earlier today, United continued executing on this warning, when it first announced that it would stop offering Affordable Care Act plans in Illinois in 2017 followed promptly by news UnitedHealthcare was abandoning California at the end of the year as well.

As PBS reports, while United announced in April it was dropping out of all but a handful of 34 health insurance marketplaces it participated in, the company had not discussed its plans in California. UnitedHealth’s pullout also affects individual policies sold outside the Covered California exchange, which will remain in effect until the end of December.

“United is pulling out of California’s individual market including Covered California in 2017,” said Amy Palmer, a spokeswoman for the state exchange.

 

It’s expected that UnitedHealth will continue offering coverage to employers in California and to government workers and their families through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Amy Palmer, a spokeswoman for the state exchange said UnitedHealthcare policyholders will know their options for 2017 coverage when health plans and rates for next year are announced in July. It is safe to say any "options" will not be cheap.

Concurrently, the company also announced it will stop offering Affordable Care Act plans in Illinois in 2017. According to the Tribune, the departure of the insurance company will reduce the number of coverage options for consumers in 27 counties. Like in California, Illinois members will have access to their benefits through the end of the year. The change does not affect the company's group insurance business or Medicare plans.

Furthermore, on Tuesday, UnitedHealthcare disclosed on a website dedicated to insurance brokers that it plans to offer on-exchange plans in only three states — Nevada, New York and Virginia. A company spokeswoman confirmed that it will withdraw from the Illinois exchange.

Critics of the Affordable Care Act have seized on the company’s exit, state by state, as further evidence the health-law insurance exchanges aren’t sustainable financially and that premiums will rise even higher for consumers.

The Obama administration has countered that the number of health plans offering exchange policies has increased since the 2014 launch, and that it expects the individual market will continue to stabilize as adjustments are made.

Unfortunately, as we showed recently, the critics so far have been spot on, and as the WSJ reported recently, health insurance premiums are set to skyrocket just in time for the election, creating a major hurdle for Hillary days ahead of the election.

 

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