Health care providers ready to offer plans in Pinal County, state insurance department spokesman says
However, the health care providers are willing to offer plans in Pinal County so long as they don't have to offer those plans as part of the state's exchange, according to a state Department of Insurance spokesman.
"There is health care insurance available in Pinal County," Arizona Department of Insurance Public Information Officer and Legislative Liaison Stephen Briggs recently told Patient Daily. "It's just not going to be available through the exchange."
That means nothing has changed for Pinal County residents since decisions by Aetna and other health care insurance providers to scale back participation in the state’s exchange under the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping federal legislation that is also called Obamacare.
"Pinal County still has no providers who have filed to offer insurance in Pinal County on the exchange," Briggs said.
Aetna announced earlier this month that in 2017 it will stop offering individual Obamacare coverage in 11 of the 15 states, including Arizona, where the insurance giant currently participates in the marketplace exchanges. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona announced in June that it plans to withdraw from Pinal and Maricopa County.
All Savers, another health insurance provider currently participating in Arizona's Obamacare exchange, has announced plans to withdraw from the state, as well.
Health insurance providers have cited heavy profit losses as reasons for pulling out of state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. Many U.S. residents -- particularly those with low incomes -- get their health care coverage from those exchanges. The Affordable Care Act mandates that most U.S. citizens acquire and maintain health insurance coverage; people who don't face fines and other penalties. The Affordable Care Act also provides subsidies to assist lower-income people with their plans.
Aetna's decision in Arizona has made things especially difficult for residents in Pinal County because no health care insurance provider will remain on the state exchange in that county after the end of this year. If nothing changes, Pinal County residents will have at least two health care insurance providers from which to choose, starting next year, but those providers don't want to participate in the state's exchange.
"It's interesting," Briggs said. "It's possible for them to offer insurance coverage in Pinal County -- it makes business sense. It just seems to make business sense to offer insurance coverage off the exchange."
The two health care insurance providers willing to offer coverage to Pinal County residents are the only ones thus far for 2017, but more than four months remain in the present year and that could change, Briggs believes.
"At this point, we don't have any additional filings," he said.
Briggs added that there remains an element of the unknown surrounding announcements by health care providers about which state exchanges they will continue to participate in next year -- and, if they continue, what steep premiums hikes may be required. Much of that is out of the control of the Arizona Department of Insurance, which isn't in a position to even speculate about what might happen, according to Briggs.
"The dust hasn't settled yet," he said.