Illinois/Georgia: Harken Out.

Zach Tracer reports over at Bloomberg News...

UnitedHealth Group Inc., the biggest U.S. health insurer, is scaling back its experiment in Obamacare markets as its Harken Health Insurance Co. startup withdraws from the two exchanges where it was selling plans.

Harken will not offer individual plans through Obamacare exchanges in Georgia and Chicago in 2017, the company said Thursday in an e-mailed statement. It will continue to offer individual plans off the exchange, Harken said.

As commenter ME notes, there are currently around 22,800 Harken enrollees in Illinois and another 10,500 in Georgia. I have no idea what the on/off exchange ratio is, however, so the number of people who will actually have to shop around will be up to 33,300; assuming, say, 2/3 are on the exchange, that would be roughly 22,000 people.

As ME further notes, this is even more perplexing because...

Harken health out after getting a rate increase higher than what they asked for. 

Think about that a moment. Harken requested a 44.5% average rate hike. State regulators made them raise their prices even higher than that (by 51%)...and UnitedHealthcare still pulled the plug on the exchange participation?

Whatever else is going on here, this "sticking around off-exchange but dropping on-exchange" business is turning into an epidemic. The question is whether the carriers are only doing this in order to leave themselves the option of jumping back into the exchange next year (there's a provision of the ACA which prevents carriers from joining the individual exchange for 5 years if they leave the individual market entirely), or are they doing it in order to cherry-pick their enrollees. Since higher-income people tend to be healthier than lower-income folks, there could be some indirect cherrypicking going on, with carriers effectively discriminating based on income. On the other hand, some have suggested that only the truly desperate will be willing to pay full price, which would suggest the opposite effect.

Anyway, scratch another competitor off the list in two more states.

Finally, as M E also notes, this announcement was made today, six days after the official contract deadline for OE4 participants. That raises the question of just how many more last-minute surprises are gonna pop up between now and November 1st? Did UnitedHealth let HHS know last week and just not make the announcement public until today? Or is there a clause which allows them to drop out even after they've signed the contract saying that they'll participate this year?