Centene to expand ACA exchange footprint by nearly 400 counties in 2021

Centene announced Friday a major expansion of its plan offerings on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, branching out into nearly 400 new counties across 13 states for 2021.

The government insurer is the latest to expand its footprint on the exchanges in the next year.

“At a time when many Americans are grappling with the health and economic effects of COVID-19, it is critical that we leverage our scale, capabilities and expertise to provide accessible, high-quality healthcare services to our members,” said Centene President and CEO Michael Neidorff in a statement.

The insurer added that it will expand into two states: New Mexico and Michigan. The expansion brings its total number of states offering Centene ACA plans to 22.

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Centene is already the largest provider of ACA plans. It has served about 2.2 million exchange members this year.

It is the latest insurer to broaden its presence on the exchanges for the coming year.

Cigna announced earlier this week that it will expand into 79 counties in 2021, increasing its potential customer reach by 50%.

Major insurer United Healthcare also said earlier this year that it will start to offer plans in Maryland, after famously retreating from the exchanges a few years ago after mounting financial losses.

The turnaround comes as the marketplace has stabilized in recent years, with premium increases minimal.

The exchanges went online in 2014 and experts say that insurers priced their plans too low. This led to financial losses and major premium spikes in recent years to compensate.

The exchange population also was at a higher health risk than insurers initially planned.

The ACA 2021 open enrollment will take place from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

The increases also come as the fate of the ACA remains in doubt. The Supreme Court will hear a case over the constitutionality of the law in November, with a decision likely coming in June 2021.