After beating third quarter Wall Street estimates and with their stock prices at all time highs, the nation’s leading insurers are expanding their presence on state exchanges (also known as marketplaces) in response to a contracting employer-driven market.
Aetna, WellPoint and UnitedHealth Group all posted third quarter results that exceeded expectations, according to the Associated Press. Shares of all three companies are at all-time highs.
All will be maintaining or adding to the number of plans offered on state exchanges during the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) next open-enrollment period, which begins Nov.15.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there will be 25% more insurers offering plans on state exchanges. A total of 77 insurers will offer plans on 44 state exchanges, and 36 of the 44 states will have at least one new exchange entrant for 2015.
Aetna will be offering plans on 17 state exchanges this year, up from 16 during the first enrollment cycle, which ended March 31.
Cigna will be offering plans on eight state exchanges, up from five; and Humana will compete on 15 exchanges, up from 14 during the last enrollment period.
UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest private insurer, is dramatically expanding its presence, participating in 24 state exchanges during the second enrollment cycle as opposed to five during the first.
Blue Cross Blue Shield independent licensee WellPoint, the nation’s number two insurer, went all in during the first enrollment cycle and will maintain that level of participation, offering plans in all 14 states where it operates.
The expansion into state exchanges comes at a time when employers are cutting back on healthcare plans and pointing employees to the exchanges for coverage.
WellPoint reported that its small business plan membership is shrinking faster than expected, according to the Wall Street Journal. The insurer noted in a call to analysts on Oct. 29 that it has lost 300,000 small-business enrollees since the start of the year.
But even as that market shrinks, it added 751,000 insureds to its rolls through state exchanges, as well as 700,000 new Medicaid customers, according to the AP.
Aetna has reported losing some customers in employee-driven plans but offset those losses with 600,000 new enrollees through the exchanges, said the AP.