Aetna reverses course on ObamaCare outlook

Aetna reverses course on ObamaCare outlook
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The nation’s third-largest health insurer is casting doubt on its future in the ObamaCare marketplace, offering a stark reversal from its relatively optimistic outlook last fall.  

Aetna Inc. on Tuesday became the last of the nation’s five largest insurers to predict that it will lose money next year through the ObamaCare exchanges.

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Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told investors that the company is expected to lose more than $300 million this year. He said the company is now backing off its previous expansion plans and is undertaking a “complete reevaluation” of its participation in the ObamaCare marketplace.

The company currently sells plans in 17 state exchanges and was planning to expand to five more next year.

“We believe it is only prudent to reassess our level of participation on the public exchanges,” Bertolini told investors Tuesday.

The grim prediction from Aetna is the latest blow to the Obama administration as it looks to stabilize the three-year-old marketplace. Federal health officials had previously touted Aetna's commitment to the marketplace last November, after UnitedHealthGroup announced it planned to exit the exchanges entirely.

Aetna reported a “poor performance” for its ObamaCare plans, as well as “disappointing” expectations for the upcoming year, despite better-than-expected profits in the most recent quarter.

It’s a major shift in tone from the insurer, which previously said it would remain in the exchanges. In October, Bertolini told investors he believed the exchanges were “a big opportunity.”

Aetna’s decision to pull back its ObamaCare expansion plans comes just one week after Anthem also announced it was reexamining its participation in the exchanges. Anthem, one of the top players in the exchanges, said it was expecting mid-single-digit losses next year, after previously predicting slight gains.

The other three top insurers — UnitedHealth, Cigna and Humana — have all also projected losses on ObamaCare in the upcoming year.