Blues plan fills worrisome exchange coverage gap in Arizona

(Getty/Ryan McVay)

Photo credit: Getty/Ryan McVay

A county in Arizona that was on track to be the first in the country with no Affordable Care Act exchange plan option in 2017 has found an insurer to fill the gap that threatened to leave 10,000 people without coverage.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) announced that it would expand its plan coverage for the coming year to include Pinal County, filling a worrisome void that had received national attention after Aetna announced it was pulling out of the state’s exchange. Aetna’s exit exacerbated UnitedHealth’s decision to eliminate its marketplace offerings in the state, and the county became a national talking point regarding the impact of the ACA's coverage mandate.

Noting that it will be the sole carrier in 13 Arizona counties, BCBSAZ emphasized the need for improved marketplace stability within the state.

“Regulators and policymakers must find a way to stabilize the market and put long-term fixes in place,” BCBSAZ president and CEO Rich Boals said in the company's statement. “In the meantime, BCBSAZ is trying hard to balance the company’s financial losses from the ACA with the very real concerns of Arizonans.”

Several state insurance commissioners remain concerned about the low level of competition among exchange offerings, according to the Wall Street Journal.  A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 31 percent of counties are slated to have just one insurer, up from 7 percent last year.

Federal officials continue to make adjustments to marketplace regulations in order to expand the number of plans offered in certain areas of the country. A recent analysis by McKinsey & Company indicated that previously reported financial struggles within state marketplace plans will alter the composition of 2017 offerings.