United Healthcare, the largest health insurance provider in the country, recently announced that it is considering the possibility of ending its participation in the healthcare insurance exchange networks established under the Affordable Care Act. According to UnitedHealthcare, the company’s earnings are down, due, at least in part, to its participation in the exchange networks and, as a result, the company will, at the very least, decrease its marketing efforts in connection with the networks. While United Healthcare is the largest insurance provider yet threatening to pull its plans from the exchange programs, more than a dozen smaller health insurers have already dropped out of the programs, having previously covered approximately 800,000 individuals.
Experts opine that if this trend continues, the lower number of plans available to consumers on the exchange networks could defeating the goals of the Affordable Care Act. State and federal governments may be forced to intervene to ensure the continued viability of the exchange networks. Such invention could include a federal insurer bailout program, making participation on the exchange a prerequisite to offering plans elsewhere in the state, or mandating that private insurers offering insurance through Medicare and Medicaid offer plans on the exchanges.