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Blue Cross Blue Shield Pulls Out of The ACA Insurance Market in 32 Missouri and Kansas Counties

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City announced on Wednesday that it will not offer individual plans on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges next year The move will affect about 67,000 people across 30 counties in Missouri and two counties in Kansas

“Through 2016 we have lost more than  $100 million [on ACA plans],” the company’s CEO Danette Wilson said in a release. “This is unsustainable for our company.”

The company was the lone insurer offering ACA plans in 25 western Missouri counties, which means when residents there look on HealthCare.gov for insurance plans for 2018, they might not find any.

“Somebody is going to have to figure something out because there aren’t going to be” any insurers says Brendan Hurley, an advisor at Insurance & Benefits Group in Pettis County, Missouri.

This move by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City is part of a larger trend with insurers pulling out of marketplaces in Virginia and  Iowaas well, says Tim McBride, a healthcare economist at Washington University in St. Louis.

“We’re really in uncharted territory. In the history of Obamacare until now, we’ve never been a situation where there are no insurers offering coverage,” he says. 

The news comes as Republican efforts to repeal  the Affordable Care Act have taken center stage in Washington D.C. and Missouri politicians were quick to place it in that context. The American Health Care Act, the GOP health care bill, passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, released a statement blaming a “collapsing” Obamacare for the “tens of thousands of Missourians in the Kansas City area that have lost their plans and have no insurer option in the Obamacare exchanges next year.”

Alluding to the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Blunt said he will work on  “solutions that will provide more options, better access, greater stability, and lower costs for Missouri families.”

Kansas City area Democratic congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II released his own statement saying repealing the Affordable Care Act “is not the answer.” He said, “Congress must come together to improve the ACA, not start again from zero with a plan that would harm so many Americans.”

The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that the GOP bill would result in 23 million fewer Americans having insurance than under the Affordable Care Act.

Uncertainty in the insurance marketplace is also growing because of mixed messaging from the Trump Administration about whether it will continue payments to insurers to offset some of the losses they incur in the marketplace.

Charlie Shields, CEO of Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, told KCUR the national health care debate is creating uncertainty among health insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City.

“I think they looked out at the future and they saw great instability in terms of what was going to happen with healthcare reform, and I think that was part of the decision process” Shields said.

Anthem, the lone ACA plan provider in dozens more Missouri counties, said on Wednesday it is still undecided on whether to sell ACA plans in 2018.

Insurers have until July in Missouri to decide whether to participate in the marketplaces and it’s still possible other companies will step in to offer plans in the counties Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City is pulling out of.

244,382 Missourians purchased ACA plans in 2017.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news initiative covering public health.

Copyright 2020 Side Effects Public Media. To see more, visit Side Effects Public Media.

Bram Sable-Smith is the Midwest correspondent for KFF Health News. Email him at brams@kff.org.
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