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UnitedHealth’s Obamacare exchange exit strategy

UnitedHealth’s Obamacare exchange exit strategy

If you signed up for a UnitedHealth Group plan on an Obamacare exchange for 2016, don’t count on renewing your coverage next year if you live in Connecticut, Michigan, or dozens of other states. The nation’s largest insurer said it is pulling out of the individual exchange business in 2017, in all but a few markets.

“Next year, we will remain in only a handful of states,” UnitedHeath CEO Stephen Hemsley said on the company’s earnings conference call Monday. “We continue to remain an advocate for more stable and sustainable approaches to serving this market and those who rely on it for care.”

United first sounded the alarm about its Affordable Care Act participation five months ago, projecting more than $1 billion in ACA losses for 2015-2016. Part of the problem was that its Obamacare members had more health issues and required more medical services and prescriptions than members in its other insurance units. United officials say that trend hasn’t changed.

Former insurance executive Robert Laszewski says UnitedHealth is only making money in about nine states, out of nearly three dozen where it participates. It’s no surprise that they’re pulling back sharply, yet maintaining a toehold in the market.

“Getting out of the exchanges almost means you’re getting out of the individual health insurance business,” said insurance consultant Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates. “This is ultimately going to be a 20 to 30 million person market, when it ultimately gets fixed.”

Executives on the United earnings conference call did not offer market-specific details about their Obamacare plans for next year. They have confirmed that they’ll pull out Arkansas, Georgia and Michigan. Officials in Connecticut say the insurer will also exit their state exchange in 2017.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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