UnitedHealthcare will operate only in a “handful” of health insurance exchanges in 2017, down from 34 states this year, company officials said Tuesday.
The company did not provide the anticipated details in its first-quarter earnings announcement released Tuesday morning or in a subsequent teleconference with securities analysts. But a spokesman confirmed Nevada and Virginia would be among the states where it will retain a presence. In the past week, UnitedHealthcare said it would leave Georgia, Michigan, and Arkansas.
UnitedHealth Group, the parent company, warned in November it was considering quitting most marketplaces because of escalating losses on the Obamacare plans. The company on Tuesday said it lost $475 million last year from the marketplace plans and was on target to lose $650 million in 2016.
UnitedHealth is the nation’s largest health insurer overall, but it’s not the biggest in the individual insurance markets that the exchanges serve.
Even so, UnitedHealth’s plan to dramatically curtail involvement in the exchanges would severely limit competition in parts or all of about 10 states — mostly in the South and Midwest, according to an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) That could mean higher premiums for consumers in states and counties left with only one or two insurers, unless another company enters those markets. Oklahoma and Kansas would be left with only one insurer if UnitedHealthcare pulls out.
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