​Aetna slashes Obamacare participation to 4 states

Last Updated Aug 16, 2016 9:01 AM EDT

Aetna (AET) will become the latest health insurer to chop its participation in the Affordable Care Act's public exchanges when it trims its presence to four states for 2017, from 15 this year.

The nation's third-largest insurer said late Monday that a second-quarter pre-tax loss of $200 million from its individual insurance coverage helped it decide to limit exposure to the exchanges, which also have generated losses for UnitedHealth Group and Anthem, among other carriers.

"More than 40 payers of various sizes have similarly chosen to stop selling plans in one or more rating areas in the individual public exchanges over the 2015 and 2016 plan years, collectively exiting hundreds of rating areas in more than 30 states," Aetna CEO and Chairman Mark T. Bertolini said in a statement.

Aetna said earlier this month it was canceling expansion plans for its exchange business in 2017. The company said it would maintain its exchange presence in Delaware, Iowa, Nebraska and Virginia.

The exchanges have helped millions of Americans gain health coverage. But major insurers say this relatively small slice of business generates large losses in part because of higher-than-expected claims.

The nation's largest insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., had expanded rapidly into the public exchanges and sold coverage in 34 states this year. But it also scaled back quickly and only plans to offer policies in three states next year, Nevada, Virginia and New York.

Anthem, which sells coverage on 14 state-based exchanges, surprised analysts last month when they said they were preparing for a loss on that part of the business this year.

Government officials say the future of the exchanges remains strong.

"Aetna's decision to alter its Marketplace participation does not change the fundamental fact that the Health Insurance Marketplace will continue to bring quality coverage to millions of Americans next year and every year after that," Marketplace CEO Kevin Counihan said in a statement.