California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’

California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’

The head of the nation’s largest state-run ObamaCare exchange is blasting UnitedHealthCare for “throwing ObamaCare under the bus” by blaming its steep losses on the law instead of its own management.

Peter Lee, Covered California's executive director, on Wednesday accused the executives of the country’s largest private health insurer of trying to pass the buck by attributing nearly $1 billion losses to the ObamaCare marketplace.

"Instead of saying, 'We screwed up,' they said, 'ObamaCare is the problem and we may not play anymore,' " Lee told California Healthline. "It was giving an excuse to Wall Street and throwing the Affordable Care Act under the bus."

Lee, whose exchange was the first state marketplaces to launch under ObamaCare, has been one of the law's most vocal supporters. He also spent several years in the Obama administration's health office, under then-Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusOPINION | 5 big ideas to halt America's opioid epidemic Aligning clinical and community resources improves health Sebelius on GOP healthcare plan: 'I'm not sure what the goal is here' MORE

The leaders of United HealthCare have recently gone public with their ObamaCare woes, rattling the healthcare sector in November when they announced that the company may pull out of the ObamaCare exchanges in 2017.

The company also said it was halting advertising for ObamaCare plans in the 2017 enrollment season, which ended last Sunday. The company has about 500,000 people enrolled in its plans, a figure that it expects to grow to 800,000 after the latest sign-up period.

CEO Stephen Hemsley has repeatedly cited higher-than-expected losses from the law.

Hemsley said last month that he regrets the company’s move into the ObamaCare marketplace last year, which he told investors was a “bad decision.” He said it was smart to sit out of the exchanges for the first year, but that the company should have held out another year.

“In retrospect, we should have stayed out longer,” he said, adding that he believes the marketplace will take more than “a season or two” to develop. “We did not believe it would form this slowly, be this porous, or become this severe.”