Massachusetts: UnitedHealthcare dragged kicking & screaming back onto the ACA exchange

A couple of years ago, UnitedHealthcare decided to pull out of the ACA individual market in dozens of states. They stuck around in a handful for 2017, but dropped out of all but two of those this year as well.

Well, next year they're adding one state...but they're making it very clear that they're doing so against their will:

UnitedHealthcare is returning to one of the government-run health exchanges that the nation's largest insurer largely abandoned in 2017.

Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare must sell coverage next year on the health exchange for Massachusetts because it now covers more than 5,000 people in the state via small-employer health plans.

The individual and small-group markets are merged in Massachusetts, where state law requires insurers of a certain size to sell on the exchange.

Huh. OK, that's interesting...I've long been an advocate for tying MCO contracts to exchange participation, but this cuts out the middleman: In Massachusetts, if you have more than 5,000 enrollees you're required to offer exchange plans, period. 

"It wasn't necessarily a voluntary decision on our part," David Wichmann, chief executive of the insurer's parent, UnitedHealth Group, told investors this week. "I'm going to kind of reaffirm that nothing has fundamentally changed since we made our decision several years back now."

Well someone isn't in a good mood. Don't expect UnitedHealthcare to be doing a whole lot of marketing for their plans in Massachusetts...it sounds like they're gonna do the bare minimum necessary to comply with the law.

On the other hand, most of the other carriers have finally figured out how to make a profit on the ACA market, so I see no reason why UHC can't as well.

In 2018, UnitedHealthcare is selling individual coverage on the government-run insurance exchanges for Nevada and New York.

Last week, the Massachusetts exchange granted conditional approval to UnitedHealthcare health plans that would be sold to both small businesses and individuals, a spokesperson said.

Oh, and for what it's worth, Massachusetts, along with Vermont, also inspired one of my other Wish List items for the rest of the country:

"Massachusetts's state-level health reform law ... merged our small and nongroup markets, meaning premiums are drawn from the collective claims experience of a wider group of people across individual and small group coverage," the spokesperson said via e-mail. "This helps keep premiums more stable via scale and opens up wider choices to consumers from both market segments."