Note: I've been distracted by my county-level COVID19 tracking project for the past couple of weeks, so I'm posting a series of entries on various ACA/healthcare policy developments which I've missed along the way.
Back in 2016, many health insurers which had been losing money hand over fist on the ACA individual market (in spite of many making record profits in other divisions) decided to bail on the ACA market entirely. Of these, the biggest shocks to the system were Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare, each of which pulled out of multiple states, and UHC bailing was the biggest blow of all:
Back in mid-April, I posted the UnitedHealthcare State Dropout Odometer, which tracked exactly which of the 34 states which UnitedHealthcare is currently offering individual market policies in this year they'd drop out of for 2017. Instead of simply stating "we're sticking around in these states and dropping out of the rest", United decided to dole the pain out gradually, with states announcing their departure one by one over several weeks. For quite awhile, I knew that they were sticking around Nevada, New York and Virginia, with another half-dozen states in limbo status.
Today, according to the Chicago Tribune and the Minnesota Star Tribune, it looks like those three are it: They'll still be available in those 3 states, but are pulling out of the other 31 (including California, where they only have around 1,200 current enrollees via the exchange anyway). OK, that sucks, but we kind of knew about this already; it's old news for the most part.
UnitedHealth Group is pulling out of New Jersey’s Obamacare marketplace in 2017.
The company’s subsidiary, Oxford Health Plans, will stop offering individual plans on the state’s federally facilitated health insurance marketplace, according to a letter from the state Department of Banking and Insurance.
The letter was obtained by POLITICO through an Open Public Records Act request and the company later confirmed it will not offer exchange plans next year.
“Individuals impacted by these decisions will continue to have access to their current health benefits until the end of 2016, when they will need to pick new plans for 2017. Our small and large group business, Medicare and Medicaid businesses will not be impacted by this decision,” the company said in an emailed statement.
UnitedHealthcare is operating on the ACA exchanges in 34 states this year. I assumed that they'd announce which states they were staying in or dropping out of all at once during yesterday's quarterly earnings conference call, but apparently not. Instead, the status of each state has been dribbling out one by one over the past week or two.
UPDATE: Zachery Tracer of Bloomberg News and Phil Galetitz of Kaiser Health News have confirmed that UnitedHealthcare will stay in Virginia and Nevada next year, but they won't stay around in Connecticut. More details as they come in....
Update 4:10pm: According to Zachery Tracer, UnitedHealthcare to pull out of Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri as well.
This caused all sorts of shockwaves among the insurance industry, and of course gave ACA critics more ammunition with which to attack Obamacare as a whole, calling it evidence of the system being a failure, etc etc...even though several other major insurance carriers on the exchanges didn't seem to be complaining (or at least weren't making it out to be nearly as dire of a situation as UHC).
In short: UHC sat out the ACA exchanges in 2014, dove into half the states head first for 2015, expanded into another 11 states for 2016...but then suddenly announced that they "may" drop out of the exchanges completely in 2017? Furthermore, they made this announcement a month after painting a glowing outlook in their official quarterly report and did so in the middle of the 2016 open enrollment period? Something doesn't sound right here.
U.S. health insurers Aetna Inc and Anthem Inc on Friday sought to reassure investors that their Obamacare businesses had not worsened after UnitedHealth Group Inc warned of mounting losses in that sector.
Aetna and Anthem said their individual insurance businesses, which include the plans created by President Barack Obama's national healthcare reform law, had performed in line with projections through October. Both backed their earnings forecasts for 2015.