- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Aetna, one of America’s largest insurers, has decided to roll back much of its health-insurance plans offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.
According to a filing from the company, it will stop doing business in roughly 70% of the counties in which it offers plans through the public exchanges set up by the ACA. This will lead to only 20% of the lives Aetna insures through the exchanges covered come 2017.
Based on the 838,000 lives insured through public exchanges at the end of the second quarter, this means that only 167,600 people who have Aetna’s Obamacare coverage will be able to keep it next year.
There is a chance, however, that even those people will be forced to change plans no matter what. It all hinges on a deal to combine Aetna and Humana.
In a letter to the US Department of Justice uncovered by Huffington Post reporters Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini outlined the company’s plans to roll back much of its Obamacare business if the DOJ blocked a proposed merger with rival Humana.
In late July, the DOJ decided to file a lawsuit to stop the merger of Aetna and Humana, which contributed to the decision to roll back its ACA offerings.
According to an Aetna representative, the DOJ ruling has affected business, since there will be costs involved in fighting the lawsuit and synergies from the deal would not be realized.
While Aetna said that it believes the deal will eventually be approved, there would be larger consequences if it is not.
“If the Humana transaction is eventually blocked, which we don’t believe it will be, the underlying logic of our written response to DOJ would still apply with regard to the public exchanges where we will participate in 2017,” said the representative.
This appears to be in reference to a line from Bertolini’s original letter to the DOJ, which stated (emphasis added):
“Finally, based on our analysis to date, we believe it is very likely that we would need to leave the public exchange business entirely and plan for additional business efficiencies should our deal ultimately be blocked.”
In other words, if the deal with Humana dies on the vine, so does all of Aetna’s public-exchange business.