- UnitedHealthcare, the nation's largest private insurer, will sell Affordable Care Act exchange plans in Maryland next year, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday. The move brings a total of three insurers to the state's exchange, Maryland Health Connection, which attracted 159,000 enrollees during open enrollment for this year.
- UnitedHealthcare declined to confirm which states it plans on entering in 2021. Currently, it offers plans in just three regions: New York, Nevada and Massachusets.
- Executives in April during an earnings call disclosed they were considering jumping back into the exchanges in a bigger way next year after all but exiting a few years ago amid steep profit losses.
UnitedHealthcare is beginning to expand its exchange business as the nation faces staggering levels of unemployment due to the novel coronavirus.
Employment fell by 20.5 million in April, the largest month-over-month decline since the government has tracked it, according to data with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As workers lose jobs, they risk losing job-based health insurance coverage, but one place they can turn is the individual exchanges, which were born out of the ACA.
It offers people a chance to shop and obtain coverage on their own. In addition to coverage protections, it also provides subsidies, or financial help for those under a certain income threshold, which may become important to consumers as unemployment continues to fall.
About 29,000 people have enrolled for coverage during the special coronavirus enrollment period that runs through June 15, according to Hogan's office. Several states have created a special enrollment period but the Trump administration has resisted calls for one for the federal exchange.
Some experts have told Healthcare Dive that the move could be a way for UnitedHealthcare to follow their customers who may lose job-based coverage onto the exchanges.
However, executives said in April they were mulling an expansion prior to the pandemic.
At its peak, UnitedHealthcare offered exchange plans in 34 states, or more than 3,100 counties, according to a prior analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Other payers, notably Centene, have been successful on the exchanges. Its background is in offering Medicaid plans to beneficiaries and operating tightly controlled networks.
Centene employed a similar strategy to its exchange business by offering narrow networks. These legacy Medicaid managed care providers also tend to offer exchange plans in the same states where they have Medicaid plans.
UnitedHealthcare executives hinted in April they were considering something similar.