Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said Wednesday that Obamacare is in a "death spiral."
Bertolini made the declaration shortly after news broke that Humana, another major health insurance provider, will be completely withdrawing from the embattled Affordable Care Act exchange program in 2018. The Aetna executive predicted that even more companies will back out of the government-run marketplaces in the coming weeks, leaving several areas across the U.S. with no insurers to provide Obamacare coverage.
"It’s not going to get any better; it’s getting worse," Bertolini said in an interview at a Wall Street Journal Future of Healthcare event. He declined to divulge whether Aetna will completely withdraw from the Obamacare markets next year.
However, Aetna has already severely scaled back its presence in the government markets. In August, the insurer announced it would pull out of most Obamacare exchanges due to major financial losses. As a result, Aetna remains in only four state exchanges this year and is the only provider still in Nebraska's exchange system, according to the Washington Post.
Given the great uncertainty surrounding the future of Obamacare and the rocky relationship insurers have had with the legislation from the start, things are not looking good moving forward, according to the Post:
[Bertolini] drew a portrait of the health insurance landscape caught in a deteriorating cycle. With too many sick people and not enough healthy ones buying insurance, he argued, the premiums have to keep going up. The more the premiums increase, the fewer healthy people want to sign up for care. They opt to pay the penalty instead of buying insurance with a massive deductible. That causes the balance of sick and healthy people buying insurance to worsen, prompting more rate increases and causing people — and insurers — to drop out.
Bertolini's remarks came the same day President Donald Trump's administration unveiled a proposed rule that would greatly tighten regulations surrounding the Affordable Care Act, CNN reported Wednesday.
The rule would dramatically shorten the amount of time people have to sign up for individual health insurance plans under Obamacare during the 2018 open-enrollment season. Open enrollment would run from Nov. 1 until Dec. 15, one-and-a-half months less than the open-enrollment season for 2017 plans.
The proposal would require consumers to pay any unpaid premiums before re-enrolling in plans, and it would offer insurers greater flexibility in providing coverage. In addition, insurance companies would not be required to cover as much and would no longer be subject to government review determining whether insurers have enough doctors in their networks.
The latest proposal from the White House comes as Republicans are torn over how to handle Obamacare. While some have suggested a piecemeal replacement of the law, others have said a full repeal and replace is necessary. Trump put pressure on Republicans last month, saying he wanted to see the Affordable Care Act replaced "very quickly or simultaneously" after its repeal.
Bertolini seemed to identify with the struggle Republicans have about what to do once Obamacare has been repealed.
"The repeal is easy. They can do that tomorrow if they want to," he said. "The question is what does the replacement look like and how long does it take to get there."
As TheBlaze previously reported, insurers began looking for ways out of the Obamacare exchanges earlier this month following the continued decline in enrollment. By Jan. 31, roughly 9.2 million people signed up for 2017 coverage.