UnitedHealth Quits More Obamacare Markets, Exiting Kentucky

  • Insurer will also leave Iowa, insurance regulator says
  • UnitedHealth to remain in New York, Nevada, Virginia exchanges

UnitedHealth Group Inc. will pull out of Kentucky’s individual marketplace for Obamacare plans, bringing to 26 the number of states the health insurer is quitting next year.

The company plans to halt sales of individual plans in Kentucky for 2017, both inside and outside the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange, as well as the small-business exchange, UnitedHealth said in a letter to the state’s insurance department. The letter was obtained by Bloomberg through an open records request.

UnitedHealth’s exits from the state Obamacare markets threatens to limit the number of options for consumers when they shop for coverage for next year. In addition to Kentucky, Iowa’s insurance regulator said Monday that the company is quitting the state’s individual market and small-business exchange for 2017. In both states, UnitedHealth will continue to offer small-business plans off the exchange.

“UnitedHealthcare’s intent to withdraw from the market was not unexpected,” Doug Hogan, a spokesman for the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet, which oversees the state’s insurance regulator, said in an e-mail. “Insurers across the country have been losing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Obamacare exchanges and can no longer sustain such heavy financial losses.”

Stephen Hemsley, UnitedHealth’s CEO, said last week that the company would only offer ACA plans in a “handful of states” for 2017, though the company hasn’t listed them. The company is retreating from the new markets created by the ACA amid mounting losses on the policies. Bloomberg has confirmed that the insurer is exiting at least 26 of the 34 states where it sold 2016 coverage.

Remaining States

The company will still probably sell ACA plans in at least three states next year: New York and Nevada have confirmed that UnitedHealth plans to remain on their ACA exchanges next year. The company has also filed plans to participate in Virginia for 2017. The table below shows the states that UnitedHealth is leaving so far:

AlabamaIndianaMichiganRhode Island
ArizonaIowaMississippiSouth Carolina
ArkansasKansasMissouriTennessee
ColoradoKentuckyNebraskaTexas
ConnecticutLouisianaNorth CarolinaWashington
FloridaMarylandOklahoma
GeorgiaMassachusettsPennsylvania

UnitedHealth’s letter to Kentucky regulators was dated March 28. Ronda Sloan, a spokeswoman for the state’s insurance regulator, said she had no immediate comment.

In Kentucky, UnitedHealth’s exit could leave about 20 percent of the state’s population with just one insurer choice for next year, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Another 22 percent would have just two choices, Kaiser found.

In Iowa, while UnitedHealth is exiting, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield is preparing to file to enter the state’s exchange, said Traci McBee, a spokeswoman for Wellmark.

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