As other insurers exit, Centene is set to expand its presence on ACA exchanges

As other insurers flee—or at least consider fleeing—the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, Centene is doing just the opposite.

The St. Louis-based company said Tuesday that it will enter Kansas, Missouri and Nevada next year, and will expand its offerings in six states where it already sells individual exchange plans: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Texas and Washington.

"Centene recognizes there is uncertainty of new healthcare legislation, but we are well positioned to continue providing accessible, high quality and culturally sensitive healthcare services to our members," President and CEO Michael Neidorff said.

As for this year, Centene’s exchange membership grew to 1.2 million as of March 31, a year-over-year increase of 500,000 members. The key demographics of those members are also consistent with years past—suggesting the insurer already has a good idea of what those members’ medical utilization will look like.

Neidorff, the highest-paid CEO among the large publicly traded insurance companies for three years straight, has consistently remained upbeat about the ACA exchanges and downplayed the business risks associated with possible policy changes.

“This particular legislative process is very complicated and will likely take some time to play out if a final bill is signed into law—and I emphasize if,” Neidorff said in April about the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace the ACA.

And while Medicaid expansion has also proven quite profitable for Centene given that it specializes in managed care, Neidorff has argued that the insurer is well-positioned to weather any major policy changes since they are likely to include more state flexibility.

Centene’s vote of confidence in the ACA exchanges comes as other insurers’ planned exits are stoking worries that some parts of the country will have no options on the individual marketplaces next year.

A county-level map released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows that certain counties in Missouri were likely to be in that situation—though that was before Centene’s decision to enter the market.

The map also shows that both Ohio and Washington state have counties where there could be no exchange option. However, it’s worth noting that CMS acknowledges in the fine print that the data reflect its projections as of June 9 and are “expected to fluctuate.” In other words, counties that are bare now may not stay that way—but other ones may pop up as insurers make their final decisions about where to sell plans next year.