Following the lead of UnitedHealthcare and Humana, another major health care insurer, Aetna, has withdrawn from numerous Obamacare state-based health exchanges.
All of these companies posted multimillion-dollar losses attributed to plans often sold to previously uninsured and sicker patients that were not offset by the enrollment of young healthy individuals or to the pursuit of those who abandoned their plans (and payment) after they have received medical care.
We should not feel sorry for Aetna and its fellow insurers, since Section 1342 of the Affordable Care Act established so-called “risk corridors” for health care plans once their paid claims exceeded their projected claims by at least 3 percent. Under this provision, losses would be covered by a taxpayer bailout through the end of 2016.
How does this play out for patients? The ACA mandates universal health care insurance, so when insurers pull out, patients with exchange-purchased plans underwritten by these companies must seek alternatives. It is estimated that in 2017, more than half of the country will live in states with two or fewer carriers in their health exchanges. This guarantees less competition for those buying health care plans and inevitable premium increases.
Will this latest chapter in the ACA saga signal the beginning of the end for a law that apparently puts the interests of the large insurers ahead of those of patients?
The two presidential wannabes after my vote must detail how they would tackle this and the many other intrinsic problems of Obamacare, the importance of which for many, if not most, Americans far outweighs other hot-button issues such as illegal immigration, voter ID or gun control.