- On an earnings call this morning, UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest health insurer, announced it will next year leave most of the state ACA markets, The Washington Post reported.
- The insurer currently operates in 34 states.
- The announcement comes after it hinted last November it would re-evaluate its ACA marketplace participation.
"We will be down to a handful of states that we will be actively participating in the exchanges," Stephen J. Hemsley, UnitedHealth Group CEO, was quoted by The Washington Post.
The news comes after the recent revelation that UnitedHealth would cease to carry individual coverage in Michigan next year.
It's not shocking as Hemsley has openly expressed a wariness toward ACA marketplace participation. “In recent weeks, growth expectations for individual exchange participation have tempered industrywide, co-operatives have failed, and market data has signaled higher risks and more difficulties while our own claims experience has deteriorated, so we are taking this proactive step,” Hemsley said last November.
And the truth is, UnitedHealth just doesn't have a large stake in the ACA customer base; it makes up less than 1% of its total membership.
Ben Wakana, HHS spokesman, noted in a recent statement the Obama administration still believes the marketplace will remain strong. "With millions of Americans insured through the marketplaces, it's clear that this is a growing business for insurers, and it's a product consumers want and need," he stated. "The marketplace should be judged by the choices it offers consumers, not the decisions of any one issuer."
A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation concludes even if UnitedHealth leaves the ACA markets altogether, negative impacts would be limited, most notably affecting some markets in rural areas and southern states.
A complete UnitedHealth withdrawal in all states would cause 532 counties to drop from three ACA insurers to two, and another 536 counties to drop from two insurers to one. "Still, the vast majority of marketplace enrollees (8.9 million or 70% of enrollees nationally) would continue to have a choice of three or more insurers," the KFF report found.