Health Insurers Make Final Call on ACA Plans--2nd Update
By Anna Wilde Mathews
Health insurers appeared likely to offer Affordable Care Act plans in all U.S. counties next year, despite months of drama and worries among some state officials about last-minute exits, ahead of a late-Wednesday deadline.
Some major insurers that had signaled that they might pull back, including Cigna Corp., Health Care Service Corp., Molina Healthcare Inc., Highmark Health and Independence Blue Cross, this week said they would stick to the states and regions where they had filed to offer ACA coverage.
The final decisions of some insurers, including Centene Corp., hadn't been disclosed as of Wednesday evening, and there was still a risk that companies might make 11th-hour pullbacks.
Wednesday's deadline to sign federal agreements to offer ACA plans marked the end of a monthslong drama in many states. Insurers have repeatedly announced they would depart exchanges, and at various times as many as 145 counties, in states including Nevada, Ohio and Missouri, have appeared at risk of lacking a marketplace insurer for next year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. State officials scrambled to find replacements, and in many cases had to approve large rate increases for some insurers to stay.
Cigna earlier confirmed it would withdraw from Maryland's exchange, but on Wednesday said it would definitely continue offering ACA coverage in a half-dozen other states.
Molina will leave the exchanges in Utah and Wisconsin, as previously announced, but on Tuesday said it would remain in seven other states where it sells ACA plans.
Centene, which has said it plans to expand its role in the exchanges next year, didn't respond Wednesday to requests for comment about its final marketplace decisions. Centene is an increasingly important player in a number of states' exchanges, and in some regions it is the only insurer planning to offer ACA coverage in 2018.
The number of insurers in many regions is expected to be thin. Roughly 50% of counties appeared likely to have just one exchange insurer next year, and 30% were projected to have two, according to a tally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, though those totals could change if other insurers disclose withdrawals.