Aetna won't withdraw from ACA exchanges--and might expand presence

In 2017, Aetna intends to continue offering plans in all Affordable Care Act marketplaces in which it currently operates, and is weighing the possibility of expanding to other states as well.

"We submitted rates in all 15 states where we participated in 2016," Aetna spokesman Matthew Clyburn said in a statement emailed to FierceHealthPayer. The insurer "has no plans at this point" to withdraw from any of those states, he added.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said during the company's recent first-quarter earnings call that he sees the individual market as a "good investment," though he did indicate, as he has previously, that he would like to see changes in the marketplaces to allow for different risk pools and more flexible benefit design.

Previously, Bertolini said he believes insurers like Aetna "have an obligation to stick it out" on the ACA exchanges while the young marketplace matures, noting that not much of the company's overall revenue is at stake in its individual market business.

Despite UnitedHealth's confirmation that it will pull out of all but a "handful" of exchanges and Humana's announcement that it, too, will pull back, both Cigna and Anthem executives have instead suggested they are planning to continue, and possibly grow, their exchange presence.

Aetna, which is awaiting regulatory approval to merge with Humana, also may consider expanding its exchange business, Clyburn said in his emailed statement.

"We haven't made any final decisions on where we might enter new ACA states," he wrote. "We have preserved our options to enter certain new geographies, pending careful evaluation of marketplace conditions."

The insurers remaining on the exchanges, however, are poised to request significant premium increases, given a variety of factors including the end of the federal reinsurance program and healthcare and drug cost growth.  

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