Insurers could return to ACA exchanges in 2018 with modernized offerings

Health insurance, pen and stethoscope

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Despite several large insurers scaling back participation in the exchange market in 2017, at least one consultant believes major payers will return next year with recalibrated plans.

Proteus Duxbury, a Denver-based healthcare consultant and former chief technology officer for Colorado’s Affordable Care Act exchange, told LifeHealthPro that there is a feeling of stability within the individual market despite the turmoil of exchange exits by large insurers like Humana, Aetna, and UnitedHealth. He added that payers are already developing slimmed down, technologically advanced “next-generation plans” with price points that are more suitable for the individual market.

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Last week Aetna CEO Mark Bertonlini indicated Aetna was unlikely to return to the ACA exchanges until 2019 or 2020, and only if legislators followed through with changes to the law. President Barack Obama has urged congressional Republicans who oppose the law to make a bipartisan effort to fix what isn’t working.

With 2017 open enrollment underway, President Obama and senior health officials are advocating supporters to create an optimistic message about the marketplaces, noting that the uninsured rate has dropped to a record 8.6 percent.

Although many have focused on the impact of insurers exiting state exchanges and subsequent concerns over reduced competition, some payers have quietly found success within the ACA marketplace by deploying narrow or tiered networks. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt has said the evolving regulatory landscape offers insurers an opportunity for experimentation and innovation.