Health insurer Anthem (NYSE:ANTM) will exit its Obamacare individual plan business in Ohio in 2018. Anthem was the only Obamacare insurer to cover the whole state this year, selling individual health plans in all 88 counties. The company also left open the possibility of dropping out of other states next year. Anthem will continue selling small-group and large-group health plans in Ohio, which currently cover about 3.4 million people.
There were 17 companies selling Obamacare plans in the state through the federal marketplace HealthCare.gov in 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Insurance. This year, that number fell to 11 companies. In the state’s 20 counties that have just one Obamacare insurer, Anthem is the only choice available. The loss of Anthem will potentially leave 18 counties in the state with no insurer selling plans on the market. There are 10,500 current Anthem customers in those 18 counties.
The company pointed to continued volatility in the individual health plan market as the reason for its decision. The restoration of a tax on insurers was considered as part of the decision. There is also the uncertainty of whether President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will continue paying insurers reimbursements for Obamacare subsidies. Anthem said, “An increasing lack of overall predictability simply does not provide a sustainable path forward to provide affordable plan choices for consumers.”
Anthem is one of the most significant participant in the marketplace. The company sells Obamacare plans in 14 states this year. If Anthem were to completely exit the marketplace, it would affect about a quarter of a million marketplace enrollees in nearly 300 counties that would have no carrier. Another half million in 227 other counties would have only one carrier.
The Anthem pullout in the Buckeye State means that there are now at least 20 counties without a single insurer offering health coverage on the Obamacare exchange. Roughly one-third of counties across the nation now only have one insurer and more and more of them are seeing their last insurer leave. Anthem is not the only health insurance company exiting the marketplace. Peers Aetna and Humana both announced a big pullback from the exchanges for 2018 earlier this year.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in a prepared statement said, “Without true competition and choice in the market, we will never be able to lower health care costs for families and small businesses. This is one more reason why the status quo on health care is unsustainable.”