Reuters

(Reuters)

UnitedHealth to Leave California's ACA Exchange

Industries Dow Jones Newswires

UnitedHealth told brokers that it has filed paperwork to offer plans in just six states' health-law marketplaces next year, providing the most complete picture so far of its previously announced widespread withdrawal. 

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The biggest U.S. health insurer said in April that it would pull out of all but a handful of the 34 states where it was selling the Affordable Care Act exchange plans, in the wake of mounting losses in that business. 

Since then, the insurer's 2017 exchange decisions have been emerging piecemeal as various state regulators disclosed that UnitedHealth wouldn't be in their exchanges next year. 

Tuesday, California officials became the latest to say UnitedHealth was leaving, when a spokesman for the Covered California exchange confirmed that the insurer wouldn't participate in 2017. UnitedHealth had about 1,200 Covered California enrollees, the spokesman said. 

In a posting Tuesday on a private website it maintains for brokers, UnitedHealth said "at this time, we have filed to offer On-Exchange products" in Nevada, New York and Virginia for 2017. 

Moreover, the company's small Harken Health subsidiary, which builds plans around primary-care clinics, will sell plans in Georgia, Illinois and Florida on a "limited basis," the posting said. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the language of the posting. 

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UnitedHealth also told brokers that during the next few weeks it would begin informing consumers enrolled in its exchange plans in states where it will pull out. Existing plans are effective through the end of 2016, and consumers can switch to different insurers during the fall's open enrollment period. 

UnitedHealth said in April it had about 795,000 exchange enrollees at the end of the first quarter. 

In a statement Tuesday, UnitedHealth said "the smaller overall market size and shorter term, higher risk profile within this market segment continue to suggest we cannot broadly serve it on an effective and sustained basis." But it said the company is "an advocate for more stable and sustainable approaches to serving exchange markets and those who rely on it for care." 

In a separate statement provided to the Journal, Harken Health said it would open a dozen of its health centers in Miami and the Fort Lauderdale area, after receiving approval to sell plans in Florida. Harken said it also would add new clinics in its Atlanta and Chicago markets. 

Overall, insurers' approach to the exchanges for next year is mixed, in the wake of financial results that have been disappointing for many companies. Humana, which has suffered losses in its exchange business, is pulling out of some areas. 

Many other insurers are sticking with the new marketplaces, though state filings have shown that several are seeking significant rate increases for next year. 

Anthem Inc. has said it would continue selling exchange plans in its current 14 states. Aetna will remain in its 15 states and has said it may enter more, and Cigna Corp. plans to extend beyond the seven states where it currently sells exchange plans. 

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