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April 5 2017

Iowa's Biggest Insurer Quits ObamaCare

by Jillian Kay Melchior

Yet another insurer is calling it quits on ObamaCare. This time, the bad news comes from Iowa, where the state’s biggest insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, announced it would stop selling policies on the state health exchange in 2018.

The New York Times reports:

In a statement, the insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is based in Des Moines, blamed its decision to withdraw in 2018 on what it said was the high cost of covering people under the Affordable Care Act.

Like some other insurers, Wellmark says it has had difficulty making money because many of those enrolling in its plans have expensive medical conditions. The company said it had lost $90 million over the past three years of providing coverage on the exchanges and individually, despite aggressively raising its rates.

... While two other insurers currently offer coverage on the exchanges in Iowa, neither would commit to continuing next year. Aetna, a large for-profit insurer, has largely exited the market and declined to comment on its plans. The second, Medica, a nonprofit company based in Minnetonka, Minn., has “not yet made final decisions,” a spokesman said in an email. “In light of information about insurers pulling their products from the individual market in Iowa, Medica needs to carefully consider its options.”

Iowa’s unenthused insurers are far from alone. As we reported earlier, ObamaCare has lost 65 participating insurers since its launch, including 28 in the last year alone. That’s terrible news for consumers, who face a dearth of choice. Already, about one in five Americans have only a single insurer offering ObamaCare-sanctioned coverage in their state.

The news in Iowa comes as Republicans continue struggling to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Alas, the Wall Street Journal’s latest dispatch isn’t cause for optimism:

A group of House Republicans huddled with Vice President Mike Pence and other top administration officials for two hours Tuesday night before emerging without having reached any agreement on how to revive the GOP health bill that collapsed in the House last month.

Lawmakers said most of the discussion centered on a measure sought by conservatives to allow states to opt out of some requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Defections from the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 30 to 40 conservative House Republicans, helped prevent GOP leaders from securing support for their health-care bill last month, forcing them to pull it from the floor.

President Donald Trump has said on Twitter he still wants to pursue passage of the GOP health-care bill, but lawmakers are unlikely to reach an agreement before they leave Washington Thursday for a two-week recess.

“I think it’s difficult to finish one by the end of the week,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.)

Lawmakers struck a positive tone as they left the meeting, but gave little indication that any new consensus was reached on how to alter the bill to win over more House Republicans.

The grim news out of Iowa should serve as a reminder that reform is urgent. ObamaCare’s failure is already affecting patients (a.k.a. voters), and the GOP has an unprecedented chance to right this policy wrong. 

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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