Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield exits health care exchange

IndustriesAssociated Press

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield said Wednesday it is pulling out of the federal health care exchange in Wisconsin.

Anthem, which is a major health insurer in Wisconsin, blamed a volatile market for its decision. It said it will not offer individual plans in the state next year except for one plan in Menominee County that won't be sold through the health care exchange that states had to set up as part of the Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama. Those who currently have individual or family plans will have coverage through Dec. 31, 2017.

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A shrinking and deteriorating individual market has made it increasingly difficult to price health insurance plans, Anthem spokesman Jeff Blunt said in a statement.

Anthem also cited "continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules and guidance." The insurance carrier offered plans mainly in northern and eastern Wisconsin.

Democrats blamed Republicans for Anthem's decision.

"From day one, Republicans in Wisconsin and nationally have done nothing but try to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Instead of trying to increase access to health insurance, they continue to put up road blocks," state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat from Middleton, said in a news release.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, of Wisconsin, said he blamed "the instability President Trump and Republicans in Congress have injected into the health care marketplace."

"Instead of working with Democrats to fix some of the issues with the Affordable Care Act, Trump has decided to do everything in his power to create a volatile environment for health care plan providers and allow millions of people to potentially lose coverage," Pocan said.

Republicans countered that the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare, was at fault.

"Obamacare is collapsing. Growing uncertainty in the health insurance market was created by Obamacare's costly regulations and it is causing higher premiums and a lack of options," Republican Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement.

The plans Anthem will discontinue in 2018 currently cover about 14,000 people. The company currently offers individual plans in 44 of Wisconsin's 72 counties.

Several other insurers, including UnitedHealthcare and Humana, already have stopped selling health insurance directly to individuals in Wisconsin. Wisconsin residents still should be able to buy plans next year through other carriers, said state Deputy Insurance Commissioner J.P. Wieske.