Companies have been acquiring each other and eliminating venerable old brands since whenever it was that companies came into existence.
In 1899, for example, Western Underwriter, one of the ancestors of the publications that now run the LifeHealthPro news service, bought another 18-year-old insurance news publication, the Black and White, and consolidated it into its own operation.
Fortis acquired Time Insurance Company, John Alden Life Insurance Company, and other well-known companies of the past many years ago. Fortis yanked its brand name off of what it built when it spun its U.S. insurance operations off to form Assurant Inc. (NYSE:AIZ).
So, OK: The news that Assurant is looking for a buyer for Assurant Health and Assurant Employee Benefits, and, apparently, might simply close Assurant Health down if it can’t find a buyer, is certainly not a catastrophe. It’s not within light years of being in the same league as the news about the riots in Baltimore. It’s not in the same universe as the news about the earthquake in Nepal.
But it’s still a little sad. Time Insurance Company helped create the modern U.S. group health insurance market, and now the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) seems to have re-arranged the health insurance market in a way that shuts the remnants of Time Insurance Company out.
What’s more troubling is hearing rating analysts, securities analysts and other health market observers making statements along these lines: The PPACA public exchange system startup problems are not really any big deal, because the health insurance giants are diverse enough and have pockets deep enough to handle the hiccups; the hiccups are only a serious obstacle for smaller insurers, and newer insurers.
When members of Congress were debating the bills that became PPACA, many claimed that one of their concerns was increasing the level of competition in the private health insurance market. The whole point of going to the trouble and expense of setting up the exchange system was to promote competition.