News & Politics

Hundreds of Counties May Have No Obamacare Insurer Next Year

Republicans may have failed to repeal or reform Obamacare and may never succeed in doing so.

But the question of what to do about Obamacare may become moot. Indications are that several of the largest health insurance carriers in the nation are seriously considering pulling out of hundreds of counties next year rather than face escalating losses.


Anthem Inc, Cigna Corp, Health Care Service Corp and Molina Healthcare, four of the biggest health insurers selling Obamacare plans, said they are weighing whether to pull out of more markets for 2018 rather than face financial losses. They have until Sept. 27 to finalize their plans.

So far, 40 U.S. counties are expected to have no insurer offering individual coverage next year, but that number could rise by the hundreds, according to U.S. government data, Kaiser Family Foundation analysis and insurer disclosures. More than 1,300 counties, primarily in 15 states, currently have only one insurer participating in 2018. Anthem and HCSC are the last man standing in one-third of those counties and states – putting those areas in particular at risk.

“Right now the number of counties at immediate risk of having no insurers in 2018 is small, but it could easily grow significantly if a couple major insurers decide to exit,” Larry Levitt, health economist at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said.

Many insurers have been waiting for an answer from Trump or lawmakers on whether they will continue to fund $8 billion in annual government subsidies. Without assurances, many insurers plan to raise rates an additional 20 percent by an Aug. 16 deadline for premium prices. Others say that the many unknowns will make the business too risky.

The last-minute drama has left millions of Americans questioning whether they will have medical coverage next year.

Julie Grady, a 59-year-old small business owner in Carson City, Nevada, is currently covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nevada, part of Anthem, which has already decided to leave the exchanges in her county and most of the state. Carson City will have no insurer on the exchanges next year.

Grady’s pays a reduced premium of $70 per month and a deductible under $1,000 for her plan, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. Grady is looking at being uninsured, as she was before the law.

The only way that Ms. Grady will lose her health insurance is if Obamacare melts down. And that will happen because of the way the program was designed and not because of anything Republicans have done to it.

Democrats were hoping against hope that Republicans would “reform” Obamacare before it collapses. Then, the blame for the debacle would fall on them. But if, as Trump has suggested, the GOP sits back and watches as Obamacare fails, then the built-in weaknesses of the law as it was originally passed would become obvious. Too many sick people, not enough young, healthy enrollees, a mandate that isn’t really a mandate, crazy and ruinously expensive coverage mandates — all of these would be exposed as the reasons for an Obamacare implosion.

With hundreds of counties not being covered by an Obamacare insurance policy, that would just about finish the program as a viable government benefit. At that point, it would be Democrats who would be in disarray as some members would be calling for cooperation with Republicans to save what’s left of the law and others insisting they go down with the Obamacare ship.

Someone is going to get blamed for the coming disaster. Shouldn’t it be the party that imposed Obamacare on the American people in the first place?


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