Health insurance giant Aetna recently announced that it would stop offering insurance plans in the Obamacare marketplace in 11 of the 15 states in which it currently operates, beginning in 2017.
“Aetna’s decision to reduce its participation in Obamacare exchanges by more than 500 counties — including all of South Carolina — is no shock,” U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) told Palmetto Business Daily. “The government’s attempt to command and control health care from Washington is yet another rosy campaign promise confronted with the reality of economics.”
Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said in the announcement that the move comes following over $200 million in pre-tax losses in the most recent quarter for the company, and nearly $430 million since 2014.
Representatives for the federal health insurance marketplace argued that Aetna’s withdrawal would not impact the overall health of the health care exchange program.
“It’s no surprise that companies are adapting at different rates to a market where they compete for business on cost and quality rather than by denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions,” marketplace CEO Kevin Counihan said in a statement.
Aetna’s move comes on the heels of a number of other announcements by insurance companies concerning their plans to pull out of the exchanges. UnitedHealthcare said it would pull out of many states in 2017, as will Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Roughly 1,200 counties across eight states will lose Humana as an option in 2017.
“In example after example, the story is the same — government programs designed to control cost or subsidize consumption distorts supply and demand,” Duncan said. “These costs don’t just disappear, as the president would have you believe. People will pay with higher premiums or higher taxes, while the quality of care declines and services provided are narrowed.”
In his announcement, Bertolini left open the possibility that Aetna would return to the exchanges if changes were made, particularly with the risk mitigation within the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“We are encouraged by a recent announcement that the (administration) will explore new options to modify the risk-adjustment program,” Bertolini said in a statement. “(We) remain hopeful that we can work with policymakers from both parties on a sustainable public-exchange model that meets the needs of the uninsured.”
Duncan and fellow Republicans, meanwhile, see the pullout as a renewed call to push back on the ACA.
“Republicans in the House have pushed a variety of reforms, all of which are better than the current Obamacare mode,” Duncan said. “This latest move by Aetna...only reaffirms my prior beliefs (that) it’s time to repeal and replace Obamacare.