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Megan McArdle

Aetna's Retreat From Obamacare Is More Than It Seems

Sure, it's losing money. But it's also at odds with the Obama administration over a merger.
Pinal County, Arizona, is losing its access to Obamacare plans.
Photographer: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

Aetna is pulling out of 11 of the 15 states it serves on the Obamacare exchanges. Longtime readers of this column will be unsurprised at the reason: It’s losing substantial amounts of money on its exchange policies.

That’s not necessarily the only reason, of course. Companies in heavily regulated industries -- and health care is now probably our most heavily regulated sector outside of nuclear power plants -- spend a lot of time engaging in n-dimensional chess games with the various government entities that have jurisdiction over their operations. Public statements and market moves may be exactly what they look like. Or they may be part of a complicated strategy involving some third, fourth or eighth factor that does not, at first glance, appear to be much related.