Death Spiral: Aetna Exits Obamacare Exchanges Citing $700 Million in Losses

Obamacare Here Sign Joe Raedle Getty
Joe Raedle/Getty

Health insurance giant Aetna said it will exit all Obamacare exchanges in 2018, citing significant losses.

The health insurance company announced it will withdraw from its two remaining exchanges in Delaware and Nebraska next year.

TJ Crawford, an Aetna spokesman, said, “Our individual commercial products lost nearly $700 million between 2014 and 2016, and are projected to lose more than $200 million in 2017 despite a significant reduction in membership.”

Crawford said that Obamacare’s structural issues “have led to co-op failures and carrier exits, and subsequent deterioration.”

Aetna announced earlier that would it would pull out its Iowa and Virginia exchanges as well.

Insurers, including Aetna, lost money on the Obamacare exchanges because not enough young people signed up for insurance on the public exchanges to offset the cost of older and sicker individuals.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a statement on Wednesday that Aetna’s move “adds to the mountain of evidence that Obamacare has failed the American people. Repealing and replacing it with patient-centered solutions that stabilize the marketplace to bring down costs and increase choices is the only solution.”

The Obamacare exchanges are facing lower engagement. Humana announced it will be dropping out of the exchanges in 2018. Other major insurers such as Anthem and Cigna will soon decide their future participation in the Obamacare exchanges.

Aetna chief executive Mark Bertolini said that Obamacare is on a “death spiral.” Molina Healthcare suffered a significant loss on the federal exchanges and will be evaluating its future participation in the exchanges on a state by state basis for 2018.

Aetna will exit the Obamacare exchanges amidst an uncertain future for health care. The House passed a revised version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), and now the Senate will take up health care reform. House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows, who successfully brokered a deal with moderate Republicans on the House bill, will now work with Senate colleagues on a “grand compromise” for health care.

Republicans seek to use the news of Aetna’s withdrawal as a reason for repealing large sections of Obamacare, whereas Democrats argued that Republicans’ repeal efforts create uncertainty in the health insurance market, forcing insurers to exit the exchanges.

President Donald Trump, citing Aetna’s withdrawal from the Virginia exchanges, also says that Obamacare is in a “death spiral.”



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