Only ObamaCare insurer in parts of Missouri pulls out of exchanges

Only ObamaCare insurer in parts of Missouri pulls out of exchanges
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About 25 counties in Missouri might have no insurers on the ObamaCare exchanges next year after Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) announced Wednesday it won’t participate. 

Blue KC cited losses and uncertainty as a reason it decided to exit the individual markets both on and off the exchanges. 

The move comes as insurers are deciding whether to offer plans in the ObamaCare marketplaces next year and are asking Congress and the administration for certainty that they’ll continue to get crucial payments from the federal government. 

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“Like many other health insurers across the country, we have been faced with challenges in this market. Through 2016, we have lost more than $100 million,” Blue KC President and CEO Danette Wilson said in a statement. 

“This is unsustainable for our company. We have a responsibility to our members and the greater community to remain stable and secure, and the uncertain direction of this market is a barrier to our continued participation.”

Blue KC was the only insurer selling plans in around 25 western Missouri counties, according to Cynthia Cox, the associate director for Kaiser Family Foundation's Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance. 

“This could cause big problems if no insurer moves in,” Cox wrote in an email. “A number of people could lose coverage.” 

The move also leaves two counties in Kansas with only one insurer on the ObamaCare exchanges, according to Cox. 

The announcement affects about 67,000 people. It doesn’t affect those who purchased plans on or before Oct. 1, 2013, according to a Blue KC press release. 

Insurers are facing a June 21 deadline to tell the government if they want to sell plans on the ObamaCare exchanges for 2018. 

Insurers have repeatedly asked for certainty that they’ll continue to receive cost-sharing reduction payments — billions of dollars from the government to compensate carriers for lowering out-of-pocket costs for some low-income Americans. 

There hasn’t yet been a scenario where an area didn’t have any carrier offering a healthcare plan. Last year, it seemed as if Pinal County, Ariz., might become the first — but Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona swooped in. 

Earlier this month, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee announced it would enter Knoxville’s exchanges, averting a potential crisis after Humana — the only insurer on the exchanges at the time — said it was exiting.