Stephen Hemsley

(Bloomberg) — UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) will pull out of Kentucky’s individual health insurance market in 2017, bringing the total number of states the health insurer is quitting next year to at least 26.

See also: UnitedHealth to drop out of all but a few PPACA states

The company plans to halt sales of individual plans in Kentucky for 2017, both inside and outside the state’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act public health insurance exchange, as well as through the state’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange, UnitedHealth said in a letter to the state’s insurance department. The letter was obtained by Bloomberg through an open records request.

Kentucky has been running a state-based PPACA exchange but has been in the process of shifting responsibility for exchange services to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) HealthCare.gov program.

UnitedHealth’s exit from the Kentucky individual market could limit the number of options for consumers when they shop for coverage for next year.

In Iowa, the insurance regulator said Monday that UnitedHealth is leaving that state’s individual market and SHOP exchange in 2017. In both states, UnitedHealth will continue to offer small-business plans off the exchange.

See also: PPACA World 2017: Don Goldmann looks ahead

“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 offer PPACA exchange plans in only a “handful of states” in 2017. The company hasn’t listed the states in which might still offer individual exchange coverage. The company is retreating from the PPACA exchange system amid mounting losses on the policies. Bloomberg has confirmed that the insurer is exiting at least 26 of the 34 states in which it sold 2016 coverage.

Remaining states

The company will still probably sell PPACA plans in at least three states next year: New York and Nevada have confirmed that UnitedHealth plans are on track to remain on their PPACA exchanges next year. The company has also filed plans to participate in Virginia in 2017.

See also: UnitedHealth’s earnings: 3 quick hits for agents

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 Henry J. 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, according to Traci McBee, a spokeswoman for Wellmark.

See also: 

California broker to NAHU: Fight ‘abysmal state of affairs’

PPACA 2017: Cigna might sell through Virginia exchange

   

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