Health insurers began to bring the real look of the 2017 HealthCare.gov exchange plan menus into sharper focus Friday.
That was the day when issuers were supposed to make final decisions about what they will (or won’t) sell through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ exchange enrollment and policy administration system during the upcoming open enrollment period.
The next open enrollment period is supposed to start Nov. 1 — a week before Election Day — and end Jan. 31, when the country has a new president.
Early on, before carriers had submitted any rate filings for 2017, Andy Slavitt, the acting director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told Congress he believed HealthCare.gov, or “the Marketplace,” would be able to fill its shelves for the fourth open enrollment period.
Since then, Hartford-based Aetna, Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana and Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group have all announced major cutbacks in their 2017 exchange plan offerings.
Executives at Indianapolis-based Anthem, a publicly traded company that controls many Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, expressed impatience, but that company has maintained at least some presence on the exchange system in all states it serves.
Agents and brokers have been watching to see what the other Blue Cross and Blue Shield carriers will do. In most states, they are the dominant carriers, based on the advantages they built up when the U.S. health insurance market was in its infancy.
For a look at what the Blues announced last week in three major markets, read on:
Consumers in Omaha, Nebraska, will start 2017 with just two individual exchange coverage options. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Omaha, Nebraska-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska said it will pull out of the HealthCare.gov shelves throughout the state, but continue to sell individual coverage through agents, and through its own website.
The company says it made the decision because it has lost about $140 million on selling Affordable Care Act public exchange plans since the exchange system came to life, in 2014, and sees no signs the system has matured.
“Serious issues with the health care have made the public Marketplace unstable, which is driving increased costs and decreased competition and consumer choice,” the company said in a statement. “We will evaluate the feasibility of a possible return to the public Marketplace in 2018 based on its improved stability.”