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Report: Another major insurer appears set to pull out of Obamacare markets

Anthem, Inc., is reportedly considering pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges in 2018. In February, the CEO of Aetna, another major health insurance provider, called former President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation a “death spiral.” (Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Moveon.org)

Yet another major health insurance provider is reportedly poised to pull out of the Obamacare markets. The news comes as Congress and the White House bicker over what to do next after the House Republicans’  American Health Care Act failed.

On the heels of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) failure to get enough members on board with the GOP’s deeply unpopular Obamacare replacement bill, Anthem, Inc., may be prepping to leave the exchanges established under former President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation, Reuters reported.

In 2018, Jeffries analysts said, Anthem “is leaning toward exiting a high percentage” of the 144 insurance regions where the company currently participates in the federal program.

“We continue to actively pursue policy changes that will help with market stabilization and achieve the common goal of making quality health care more affordable and accessible for all,” Anthem said in a statement.

The balance of sick and healthy patients has been worse than anticipated, resulting in major double-digit premium increases this year. Based on information released in October 2016 by the Obama administration, premiums soared by an average of 25 percent.

Some states saw much larger jumps. Premiums in Arizona, for example, increased by a staggering 116 percent at the start of the new year.

Health care providers are growing increasingly unsure about how to navigate the insurance market, as concerns over the stability of Obamacare continue and lawmakers fail to reach any sort of consensus on how to address the issue.

In February, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini described Obamacare as a “death spiral.”

“It’s not going to get any better; it’s getting worse,” he said during an interview at a Wall Street Journal event focused on the future of health care.

Bertolini did not say whether Aetna will completely withdraw from the Obamacare markets next year. However, the company has already severely scaled back its presence in the government markets. In August 2016, Aetna announced it would pull out of most Obamacare exchanges because of major financial loses.

Just one day before the Aetna executive made his comments about the embattled Affordable Care Act, Humana announced it will completely withdraw from the Obamacare exchange program in 2018. According to an internal analysis, Humana is projecting loses of up to $45 million on Obamacare business in 2017.

“We are again seeing signs of an unbalanced risk pool based on the results of the 2017 open enrollment period,” CEO Bruce Broussard said during an investors call in February. “Therefore, we’ve decided we can’t continue to offer this coverage in 2018.”

Also, fewer people signed up for the Obamacare exchanges this year than in years prior. After President Donald Trump pulled ads for the health care program, reminding stragglers to sign up for coverage by the Jan. 31 deadline, only around 9.2 million people enrolled.

That number is down from the 9.6 million who signed up a year ago. And, in the final two weeks of enrollment, only 376,000 people enrolled, compared to the nearly 700,000 who signed up at the same time in 2016.

Four years ago, the Congressional Budget Office forecasted 201 million people would have private health insurance in any given month in 2016. However, according to a 2016 CBO report, only 177 million people — on average — had private coverage, marking a shortfall of 24 million people. Furthermore, in 2016, the CBO slashed its original projection of 21 million new enrollees to just 13 million.

So what do the Republicans — who control both chambers of Congress and the White House — plan to do about the problems plaguing the insurance market? It’s anyone’s guess.

Trump took to Twitter Thursday evening to lambaste the conservative Freedom Caucus, blaming them for the failure of the GOP-backed plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The president vowed to “fight” caucus members in 2018, even though the bill was also rejected my moderate members of the Republican Party.

The AHCA was rejected by members of the conservative wing of the GOP because — in their view — the bill did not fully repeal Obamacare, a promise they have made to their constituents.

In a series of tweets Friday aimed at Trump, the House Freedom Caucus stood their ground. The members of the caucus said they are “committed to keeping our promise” to fully repeal Obama’s signature legislation.

One Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), sent a tweet of his own to the president. “Freedom Caucus stood with  when others ran,” he wrote. “Remember who your real friends are. We’re trying to help  succeed.”

Trump promised in January to provide “insurance for everybody,” though he didn’t offer specifics about how he planned to accomplish that goal. He also told the New York Times he wanted to see Obamacare replaced with a Republican alternative “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.”

For right now, though, it appears the Republicans are back to square one.

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