More insurers expected to enter the ACA exchanges in 2019

Exit sign
Insurer entry into the ACA marketplace is expected to be a net positive, according to a new tool. (Getty/John Spannos)

Unlike previous years, more insurers are expected to offer plans on the individual exchange next year coupled with fewer exits, according to a new online tool. 

Launched by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) this week, the tool allows users to track individual market entry for the 2019 plan year by state, county and carrier. So far, 11 states have filed their rates for the 2019 plan year, and no carriers have exited the market. This is a stark contrast to the market at this time last year, when there were concerns some counties would have no carriers at all.

“Looking at participation is one of the most basic status checks you can do to see how this market is working," said Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., senior adviser to the executive vice president at RWJF, who helped develop the tool. "If you don’t see any interest on the sales side, that’s a big problem, and it was sort of looking that way a little bit last year. I think it’s a really interesting transition to see that this year there does seem to be more interest."

While she admitted the 2018 plan year made for a “pretty dismal baseline,” Hempstead was positive about where the market will go from here. She noted that the market seems stable for participants in the near term, and opportunities could arise throughout the country, including in urban parts of rural states and underserved areas.

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Over the last month, two insurance startups have announced expansion into the ACA marketplace. In June, Oscar Health said it would file offerings in three new markets, and on Tuesday, Bright Health expanded into two new states.

Some experts have expressed concern about how short-term and association health plans will affect the individual market, but Hempstead questioned the extent to which those will make a difference. States can do a lot to minimize the impact of alternative plans, she said, and most consumers will opt for the comprehensive plans.

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“I’m not saying that no one’s going to be interested in short-term coverage, but it’s sort of saying, ‘Let me solve your problem of unaffordability by making it easier for you to buy an inferior product,'" she said. "To what extent would consumers really jump at that and say, ‘That’s fantastic, I’m going to buy an inferior product?’”