Insurers to expand exchange offerings next year

The Affordable Care Act was a boon for health insurers, with a strong enrollment surge and more young, healthy consumers signing up. So insurers are preparing to expand their offerings on health insurance exchanges.

Motivating insurers is that at least 7 million consumers signed up for exchanges during the first open enrollment period. Many insurers now are taking steps to sell plans in new states and counties, while others that didn't participate in the exchanges will be joining in, Politico reported.

That's largely because exchanges can provide so many benefits for insurers. "This seems like it will continue to grow and be a bigger opportunity over time ... and there are only so many ways to grow organically," Matt Eyles, a former insurance executive who now works at consulting firm Avalere Health, told Politico. "You can take market share from other people, but there aren't that many chances to cover new lives."

UnitedHealthcare sees 2014 as "just the beginning for exchanges," Tyler Mason, a spokesman for the nation's largest insurer, told Politico. "As the economics, sustainability and dynamics of exchanges continue to become clearer, we believe exchanges have the potential to be a growth market with much to offer UnitedHealthcare and other insurers and consumers." The insurer will likely start selling plans in Connecticut's exchange next year.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has plans available in 47 states and will probably expand offerings to at least 49 states next year. Moreover, state exchange officials have reported new insurers want to begin selling on their exchanges in 2015. At least 10 states, including Kentucky, California, Connecticut and Washington, will likely add more insurers to their online marketplaces.

Despite the strong interest in participation, exchanges still present several challenges for insurers, including determining 2015 rates based on the characteristics of new members enrolled this year and how those members are using their new coverage, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Politico article