On Wednesday, Aetna — America's third-largest health insurer — announced that it would no longer offer individual coverage in Nebraska or Delaware in 2018, the only remaining states in which it had planned to operate under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
In a statement to Fox Business, the company put its decision plainly, saying that it has “completely exited the exchanges” under Obamacare.
In its statement, the health insurance giant made it clear that it can simply no longer afford to operate under Obamacare, citing financial losses approaching $1 billion:
Our individual Commercial products lost nearly $700 million between 2014 and 2016, and are projected to lose more than $200 million in 2017 despite a significant reduction in membership.
Those losses are the result of marketplace structural issues that have led to co-op failures and carrier exits, and subsequent risk pool deterioration
The announcement was not missed by the Trump administration — including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — which is hoping that its own health care bill will become law soon.
Price said, Wednesday evening:
"Aetna’s decision to completely withdraw from the ObamaCare exchanges adds to the mountain of evidence that ObamaCare has failed the American people.
Repealing and replacing it with patient-centered solutions that stabilize the marketplace to bring down costs and increase choices is the only solution."
While Aetna's withdrawal from Obamacare has been gradual, experts note that this full departure could create, essentially, a domino effect.
Health insurance expert Cynthia Cox — who works for the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation — explained to the Associated Press:
"All it takes is one insurance company to exit, and that can create panic for other insurers and they pull out too.
Insurers don't want to be the last one holding the bag."
Even more troubling for Obamacare, as CNN Money notes, is the fact Aetna is far from the only insurer that has clearly lost faith in the ACA:
Aetna's withdrawal is the latest in a series of insurers leaving Obamacare. The exodus began last year, when several carriers announced they were exiting or downsizing in 2017 after suffering large losses.
Humana (HUM) already announced it is completely abandoning the individual market in 2018. UnitedHealthcare (UNH) pulled out of Virginia, and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield said it would stop selling individual policies in Iowa in 2018.
If Obamacare is indeed in a “death spiral,” as Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini warned back in February, the GOP's work to get the AHCA done quickly and done right is that much more vital.