A major insurer, Anthem, announced late Friday that it will pull out of the Affordable Care Act marketplace in Virginia — the latest company to scale back its participation in an insurance market that has been destabilized by uncertainty about the future and dark pronouncements by President Trump that it is about to fail.
In a statement, the company said that the business of selling insurance to individuals “remains volatile” and cited “continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules and guidance.”
“This is unwelcome news for many Virginia consumers. Anthem HealthKeepers currently covers approximately 206,000 people in Virginia’s individual health insurance market,” Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jacqueline K. Cunningham said in a statement. The departure will leave five insurers in the state's marketplace for next year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
For months, Trump has been threatening to halt federal subsidies called cost-sharing reductions that insurers say are crucial to the functioning of the marketplaces. Those payments are projected to add up to $7 billion this year and $10 billion next year. Anthem said the lack of clarity on federal cost-sharing reduction subsidies and the return of a tax on insurance coverage played a role in its decision.
“As a result, the continued uncertainty makes it difficult for us to offer Individual health plans statewide in Virginia,” its statement said, announcing that it will leave the marketplace, where people can buy insurance plans with the help of federal subsidies.
Of the 206,000 people in the individual Anthem plans, approximately 160,000 are enrolled through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Anthem will sell individual plans off the exchanges in a few counties.
Insurers are nearing the date, Sept. 27, when they must confirm that they will sell plans next year, and more exits may occur in the coming weeks.
Anthem had already announced that it would withdraw from Nevada's marketplace and reduce its participation in Georgia.
Molina Healthcare announced this month that it would leave marketplaces in Utah and Wisconsin and scale back in Washington. It left the door open to more exits.
“We continue to closely monitor the current political and programmatic developments pertaining to our 2018 participation in other Marketplace states, and subject to those developments, will withdraw from 2018 participation as may be necessary,” Molina said in a news release.
The fate of the marketplaces has been highly politicized, with large premium increases and departures being touted by Republicans as evidence of the failure of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats, on the other hand, see the same facts as evidence of the uncertainty created by the White House and Congress.
“Today’s announcement from Anthem is further proof that the markets are collapsing and Obamacare is broken,” Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said in a statement. “Obamacare is hurting more people than it is helping. … Now is the time for Congress to come together and figure out a solution that gives much needed relief to hard-working families. If Congress continues to kick the can down the road, it will only exacerbate the problems we currently face.”