ObamaCare: Not all Marketplaces are Created Equal


By Kerry Lear 

As more and more major health insurers have been forced to pull out of Obamacare, there are sections of the country where there is only one option for healthcare coverage available on the health.gov exchange.

The exchange has been an expensive failure since the beginning, but now there is a new problem occurring. There are two ObamaCares.

One covers the coastal and northern areas where there are still multiple insurers and plans, and then there is one covering the southern and rural areas where there are limited options with high premiums.

This disparity between the two exchanges is only going to increase as major healthcare providers, including UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and Humana, exit the majority of marketplaces in 2017.

“There’s really two kind of stories that are playing out,” said Cynthia Cox, who studies insurance coverage at Kaiser Family Foundation. “The combined effect of these exits is mostly concentrated in southern states and particularly rural counties within those states.”

In seven states, including Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, Alaska, North Carolina and Kansas, there will be only one insurer offering ObamaCare coverage. That means the insurer can dictate the premium price.

The state of Arizona may not even have one plan available. This is nothing like president Obama promised in 2013.

“Just visit healthcare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon,” said Obama in 2013. “You enter some basic information, you’ll be presented with a list of quality, affordable plans that are available in your area, with clear descriptions of what each plan covers, and what it will cost. You’ll find more choices, more competition, and in many cases, lower prices.”

Fast forward to today, and individuals in rural areas have to select whatever is available, which is often an expensive plan that doesn’t fit their needs.

Now with many insurers pulling out, enrollees will have to switch to plans which will evidently be more expensive for both enrollers and the federal government.

“We certainly see this as an issue,” said Mike Rhoads, Oklahoma’s deputy insurance commissioner. “With only a single carrier out there, there is no competition.”

Rhoads has had difficulty recruiting more insurers. “We see no other carriers willing to come in,” he said. “We certainly have had conversations with some of the national players.”

“As we discussed with one of the CEOs of a large HMO, who had competitive rates, they had their losses and their board of directors was just incensed that they hadn’t made money, and it caused some turmoil within the organization.”

Although the rural areas currently have less coverage, all areas are going to see less plans in 2017.

Editors note: Currently the Imperial County only has one option for federal healthcare – Molina Health Care, as all other insurance companies have pulled out of the Valley. Private insurance through different companies is still available.