Health and Science

Big insurer Anthem slashes Obamacare footprint in Kentucky in half for 2018

Key Points
  • Kentucky is the ninth state where Anthem has said it will cut its individual health plan business next year.
  • Anthem cited continued volatility in the Obamacare markets.
  • The company also blamed uncertainty over whether the Trump administration will follow through on threats to end key subsidy payments to insurers.
Gus Ruelas | Reuters

Anthem on Wednesday continued reducing its Obamacare business, as the big insurer said it will cut in half the number of counties in Kentucky where it sells individual health plans next year.

Anthem's decision to sell individual plans in just 59 counties in Kentucky comes more than two months after the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer filed proposed rates for health plans in 2018 for all 120 counties in the state.

So far, Anthem has announced that it will significantly reduce its Obamacare footprint next year in nine out of the 14 states where it currently sells individual health plans both on and outside of government-run marketplaces.

The pullbacks do not affect Anthem's business selling group insurance or Medicaid Advantage and Medicaid plans in those states.

The insurer, as it has done with previously announced pullbacks from Obamacare marketplaces in other states, on Wednesday cited an individual health plan market that "remains volatile" as it disclosed its cuts in Kentucky.

"Today, planning and pricing for [Affordable Care Act]-compliant health plans has become increasingly difficult due to a shrinking and deteriorating individual market," Anthem said.

Anthem also blamed uncertainty over whether insurers will be guaranteed payments by the federal government that compensate them for offering lower-income Obamacare customers discounts on out-of-pocket health costs.

The Trump administration has threatened to end those cost-sharing reduction payments.

The Senate Health Committee on Wednesday held the first of four planned hearings on a proposed bipartisan bill that would continue to fund the CSR payments to insurers, which are estimated to be worth $10 billion next year.

Kentucky's Department of Insurance, when asked about Anthem's pullback in the state, said the department had "proactively engaged [the insurer] CareSource and Anthem to ensure that every county in Kentucky would be covered during benefit year 2018."

"Despite the volatility in the healthcare marketplace precipitated by Obamacare, the department is committed to the best outcome for Kentuckians."

CareSource will cover the counties in Kentucky that Anthem is not covering.

Anthem in June said it would not sell Obamacare plans in nearly all of Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana in 2017. In August, Anthem said it was also effectively pulling out of Nevada's individual health plan market.

The insurer also has announced less-dramatic pullbacks in selling Obamacare plans in California, Missouri, Georgia, and Virginia next year.