Big Insurers Are Skeptical of Obamacare’s Health Insurance Marketplaces

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Some large insurance companies don't like the idea of insuring people with pre-existing conditions, which they'll be required to do under Obamacare.

We’ve recently been telling you how to get ready for Obamacare. Well, get ready for the absence of some familiar names.

Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and Cigna are being exceedingly cautious about the new state insurance marketplaces and may not be available in some states, CNNMoney says. In short, they’re scared of the health care reform provision that enables people with pre-existing conditions to get coverage. Unhealthy people might sign up en masse and dip into the big insurers’ profitability.

The marketplaces are where people who are uninsured or can’t get affordable insurance through work can buy health insurance and become eligible for tax credits to help them with the premiums, depending on their income. The marketplaces will open on Oct. 1.

“A lot of major, for-profit [insurers] have less tolerance for losses and risk,” health policy expert Christine Monahan told CNNMoney. So they may sit back and see what happens. Aetna, which had submitted marketplace proposals in 14 states, has backed out of at least five: Maryland, New York, Georgia, Ohio and Connecticut. UnitedHealthcare will operate in about a dozen state marketplaces next year. Cigna will operate in five.

The companies will still offer plans outside of the marketplaces, CNNMoney says. However, only those people who purchase insurance on the marketplaces will be eligible for the subsidies via tax credits.

The absence of some major players could have both ups and downs for consumers. On the bright side: “The exchanges, which will include many smaller regional players and companies that have catered mainly to the Medicaid market, are expected to be very competitive in terms of premiums,” CNNMoney says. However, there may be fewer doctors and hospitals in these insurance networks.

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