Only 6 insurers submit plans for Illinois exchange

Only six insurers said they want to sell health plans through the Illinois health insurance exchange, sparking concerns that the online marketplaces will lack adequate competition if the trend unfolds throughout the country.

The state of Illinois announced Wednesday that six insurance companies submitted a total of 165 health plans to be available on the state-operated exchange, called the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace. That's far fewer than the roughly 260 plans offered by 16 different insurers the state predicted last fall, according to the Associated Press.

Such a low number of interested insurers leads one industry consultant to wonder if insurers as a whole may be hesitating to fully participate in the exchanges. "I'm hearing that from other carriers in other parts of the country as well," Robert Laszewski told the AP. "They are terribly fearful that if there's a poor launch (of the marketplaces) they're going to get blamed for a mess."

But Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn painted a different picture, saying in a statement that he's "very encouraged that we have seen multiple plans being offered on the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace."

Quinn's spokesman for healthcare issues Mike Claffey clarified that the state's estimate of interested insurers "included multiple subsidiaries of several different insurers" and health plans "the federal government later ruled out for states not operating their own (marketplaces)." He added that the Illinois insurance department is "confident that the number of plans filed will allow for robust competition between insurers and broad choice for consumers across the State."

The state didn't disclose the names of the insurers submitting health plans, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and Land of Lincoln Health, consumer operated and oriented plans, previously have committed to selling policies on the Illinois exchange, the Chicago Tribune reported.

To learn more:
- here's the statement
- read the Associated Press article
- see the Chicago Tribune article

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