By JACK WEATHERLY
UnitedHealthcare will depart the Mississippi insurance exchange at the end of the year, leaving the state with only two insurers, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said Tuesday.
That comes as part of the nation’s largest health insurer pullback from all but a few such markets mandated under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The pullout, which will happen next year, will come after the insurer expanded to about three dozen markets this year.
“They’re the only carrier that operates in all 82 counties. What I think happen is we will have only one carrier in each county, unless I can convince Humana or Magnolia to cover more than one county,” Chaney told the Mississippi Business Journal.
“I’ve got about a 45-day window to do that. There will be less competition that may result in increased rates. We’ve got about 35,000 people that we’ve got to find insurance for.”
New York threatened to pull UnitedHealthcare’s license to operate in the state in any capacity, so the insurer agreed to stay, according to Chaney.
But Chaney said he would not make such a threat.
The carrier covers approximately 100,000 Mississippians through other programs – CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, managed care for Medicaid as well as Medicare supplements, he noted. The company will continue to provide coverage to small businesses through One, Mississippi, he said.
UnitedHealthcare released earnings Tuesday, and said that it suffered losses through the exchanges totaling $475 million last year and anticipates losing $650 million this year.
Despite the Obamacare losses, the Minnetonka, Minn.-based company made $1.6 billion in net income on $44.5 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2016, according to Kaiser Health News. During the corresponding period last year, UnitedHealth Group made $1.4 billion in net income on $35.8 billion in revenue.
UnitedHealthcare’s plan to dramatically curtail involvement in the exchanges would severely limit competition in parts or all of about 10 states — mostly in the South and Midwest, according to an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The turnabout in Mississippi comes after it announced in November that it would expand its coverage to all 82 counties at the beginning of 2016
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