Aetna to Pull Out of Remaining Affordable Care Act Exchanges -- Update

By Anna Wilde Mathews Features Dow Jones Newswires

Aetna Inc. said it will pull out of the Affordable Care Act exchanges in Delaware and Nebraska next year, confirming that the insurer will exit all of the marketplaces where it currently sells plans.

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Earlier, Aetna had announced it was leaving the exchanges in Iowa and Virginia, its other two current marketplace states. The company also had said publicly that it planned on "significantly reducing" its marketplace business, which has continued to lose money even though Aetna had already sharply cut its exchange footprint in 2017, from 15 states last year.

Aetna said its individual plans are projected to lose more than $200 million this year, and "those losses are the result of marketplace structural issues that have led to co-op failures and carrier exits, and subsequent risk pool deterioration." The insurer said that "at this time [we] have completely exited the exchanges."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Aetna isn't the sole exchange insurer in any of its regions. Other large, publicly traded insurers, including Anthem Inc., Cigna Corp. and Molina Healthcare Inc., have said they are considering pulling back from the exchange business, but that they haven't yet made final decisions.

Aetna's move will feed into the broader political debate over the future of the ACA, in which both Democrats and Republicans are seizing on developments in the exchanges to back their own arguments. President Donald Trump tweeted about Aetna's decision to withdraw from Virginia, saying "Death spiral!" Republicans have argued that strains in the ACA exchanges are signs of the existing law's flaws, as they seek to advance their own health overhaul legislation.

Democrats, for their part, have said that issues with the exchanges are being exacerbated by uncertainty facing insurers under the Trump administration. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals about the future of federal cost-sharing payments that help reduce health costs for low-income ACA enrollees. Insurers have said if those payments aren't locked in, the exchanges will see withdrawals and large rate increases.

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Write to Anna Wilde Mathews at anna.mathews@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 10, 2017 18:00 ET (22:00 GMT)