Anthem re-enters Virginia to cover ACA exchange bare spots

Document titled, Affordable Care Act
The Senate is currently working on a bipartisan measure to stabilize the ACA exchanges, but lawmakers are facing a tight timeline. (Getty/Designer491)

The ever-fluid landscape of insurers’ projected Affordable Care Act exchange participation has shifted yet again.

Anthem, which previously said it would offer only one off-exchange plan in Virginia next year, announced Friday that it had decided to sell plans on the state’s exchange in 2018 after all.

The decision came in the wake of Optima Health’s announcement last week that it would be reducing its individual market offerings in Virginia. That development increased the number of projected “bare” counties nationwide from zero to 63.

“Since learning that 63 counties and cities in Virginia would not have access to individual health plans, Anthem has been engaged in further evaluation and discussion with regulators to ensure that no bare counties or cities exist in the state,” Anthem said in a statement.

Those discussions convinced the insurer to revise its 2018 plan offerimgs to include on- and off-exchange plans in 68 cities and counties in Virginia—including the 63 that were set to have no exchange insurer.

“Anthem will remain focused on developments in the individual marketplace and will continue to advocate for solutions that will stabilize the market and allow us to once again offer individual insurance coverage throughout the state of Virginia in the future,” the company added.

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Since insurers began submitting filings to indicate their 2018 plan offerings, Anthem has announced exits from multiple states, including Nevada, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. It has also reduced its footprint in Kentucky, Missouri, California and Georgia.

These announcements hew to Anthem’s strategy of “surgical extraction” from ACA exchange markets, which it’s deemed necessary because of ongoing volatility in the individual market. In the states Anthem has exited, though, it has said it will continue to sell at least one off-exchange plan—allowing it to re-enter the exchanges in those states as early as 2019.

Virginia’s two Democratic senators welcomed the news that their state was spared from hosting the nation’s only bare counties.

“We are glad Anthem is re-entering the Virginia individual healthcare exchange to provide thousands of Virginia consumers with coverage in places where they might have had none,” Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said in a statement. “We will continue to work in Congress with colleagues regardless of party to fix the existing Affordable Care Act to ensure a stable market, lower costs and improve coverage.”

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is currently working on a bipartisan measure to stabilize the ACA exchanges, but lawmakers are facing a tight timeline. Insurers have until Sept. 27 to sign final contracts to participate in the exchanges next year.