California Counties Lose Blue Cross on Obamacare Exchanges

This article first appeared on Insurance Journal.

Anthem Inc., Cigna Corp., Health Care Service Corp. and Molina Healthcare, four of the biggest health insurers selling Obamacare plans, said they are weighing whether to pull out of more markets for 2018 rather than face financial losses. They have until Sept. 27 to finalize their plans.

So far, 40 U.S. counties are expected to have no insurer offering individual coverage next year, but that number could rise by the hundreds, according to U.S. government data, Kaiser Family Foundation analysis and insurer disclosures.

More than 1,300 counties, primarily in 15 states, currently have only one insurer participating in 2018. Anthem and HCSC are the last man standing in one-third of those counties and states – putting those areas in particular at risk.

“Right now the number of counties at immediate risk of having no insurers in 2018 is small, but it could easily grow significantly if a couple major insurers decide to exit,” Larry Levitt, health economist at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said.

Many insurers have been waiting for an answer from Trump or lawmakers on whether they will continue to fund $8 billion in annual government subsidies. Without assurances, many insurers plan to raise rates an additional 20 percent by an Aug. 16 deadline for premium prices. Others say that the many unknowns will make the business too risky.

The last-minute drama has left millions of Americans questioning whether they will have medical coverage next year.

Julie Grady, a 59-year-old small business owner in Carson City, Nevada, is currently covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nevada, part of Anthem, which has already decided to leave the exchanges in her county and most of the state. Carson City will have no insurer on the exchanges next year.

Grady’s pays a reduced premium of $70 per month and a deductible under $1,000 for her plan, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. Grady is looking at being uninsured, as she was before the law.

“I would have to go without health insurance,” she said. “I would just stay healthy, hike, eat well. I’d be in trouble if something catastrophic happened. I would lose everything.”

ANTHEM CONSIDERING 2018 PLANS

Anthem, the second-largest U.S. health insurer, sells Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states. It has already decided to pull out of most individual markets in Nevada, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin in 2018. Earlier this week, Chief Executive Officer Joe Swedish said he was still weighing 2018 participation in its other states. In states like Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Virginia, Anthem sells plans in more than 250 counties where it is the only insurer, and they could be left “bare” next year, according to government data.

Health Care Services Corp. is a Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in five states and is the only Obamacare individual insurer in more than 90 Texas counties, more than 75 Oklahoma counties, and half a dozen Illinois counties. It confirmed on Friday that it has submitted products for its five states but is still weighing next year. You can read the full article on Insurance Journal

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