Last week United Health Care (UHC), the country's largest health insurance company, announced that it was considering leaving the health care exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It claimed that it was losing money on the plans it offers in the exchange, so it might decide to give up this market.
The prospect of UHC leaving the exchanges naturally delighted foes of Obamacare. Many quickly celebrated this as the beginning of the end. If other insurers follow the lead of UHC, there may be no one left offering insurance in the exchanges. And if there are no exchanges, there is no Obamacare. People would no longer be guaranteed the option to buy an insurance policy without regard to their health.
Before we join the death of Obamacare celebration there are a few questions worth asking. First, is UHC really losing money in all of the exchanges in which it is participating? Remember each of these state exchanges are treated as separate pools, with rates set based on the costs for treating people in the state. If UHC is pulling out of all the exchanges does that mean it is losing money in every single state? Presumably that would be the case, since it's hard to see why UHC would be leaving a market in which it is making money.
If UHC is losing money in all the exchanges it has entered, that would really say a great deal about the competence of UHC's management. The day after UHC's announcement, Aetna, another major insurer, announced that it was happy with the performance of its plans in the exchanges and that it has no intention of leaving this market. If Aetna can apparently make a profit in most of the exchanges and UHC can't make money in any of them, then it doesn't sound like UHC is run by a very good team.More ...