Oscar files to expand ACA exchange footprint in 2018

Count Oscar Health among the insurers that are not only staying the course on the Affordable Care Act exchanges but also expanding their footprint.

The insurer announced Wednesday—the initial rate-filing deadline for Healthcare.gov plans—that next year it will return to the exchanges in New York, Texas and California. Oscar will expand its plan offerings in all but New York, where it is based.

In addition, Oscar will enter nine counties in Tennessee for the first time, and as it had previously announced, the insurer and the Cleveland Clinic will begin offering co-branded plans in five counties in Ohio. It will also return to New Jersey after a one-year hiatus from offering plans there.

Oscar is not the only insurer to bet on the survival of the exchanges, even though big names like Aetna and Humana have pulled back. Centene announced last week that it plans to enter Kansas, Missouri and Nevada next year, and will expand its offerings in six states where it already sells ACA exchange plans.

However, as of Tuesday, 44 counties nationwide were still at risk of having no exchange insurer next year, by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s count. As for why Oscar has chosen to be one of the few insurers expanding its exchange presence in 2018, CEO Mario Schlosser wrote in a blog post that he sees the uncertainty surrounding the individual market as overblown.

“We're confident that when the dust settles, the market for health insurance will stabilize in time for 2018,” Schlosser wrote. “For all of the political noise, there are simply too many lives at stake for representatives in Washington, D.C., not to do what's right for the people.”

Oscar is also poised to “catalyze the right kind of change” in the healthcare system by meeting consumers’ demands for simpler, better and more affordable care, Schlosser added, noting that is why the insurer wants to expand into new geographies.

Still, the insurer has not yet reached profitability since it was founded in 2012. Last year, Oscar lost $204.9 million, though so far this year it appears to be on track toward lessening its losses.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that Oscar is returning to New Jersey after a one-year break from selling plans in the state.