END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD (41 states)

Time: D H M S

The Carriers Taketh Away & The Carriers Giveth: Aetna may EXPAND exchange participation

Last month there was much handwringing over the news that UnitedHealthcare has decided to take their ball and go home, pulling out of the individual market in more than 2 dozen states. Shortly after that came the news that Humana is also tidying up their books by dropping individual plans in at least 5 states.

However, capitalism abhors a vacuum. In Iowa, even as UnitedHealthcare is leaving, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is stepping in to fill the gap there...and today brings some welcome news about another major carrier, Aetna:

Health Insurer Aetna Inc on Wednesday said it plans to continue its Obamacare health insurance business next year in the 15 states where it now participates, and may expand to a few additional states.

"We have submitted rates in all 15 states where we are participating and have no plans at this point to withdraw from any of them," said company spokesman Walt Cherniak. But he noted that a final determination would hinge on binding agreements being signed with the states in September.

Aetna sells the individual coverage on exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. By also filing proposed rates in several other states, Aetna said it had preserved its options to participate in them as well next year. It declined to identify the potential new markets.

The 15 states where it currently participates are Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Aetna earlier this year said its Obamacare business had operating losses of about 3 to 4 percent in 2015, with improvements seen in the latter part of the year. It is hoping the business will have a break-even performance in 2016.

I'm assuming "several" means "4-8" states? Of course, they're not giving absolutes, but this is still welcome news.