ACA enrollment still open through March 1 for those whose carriers left

(File photo) Devices used to take blood pressure, temperature, and examine eyes and ears rest on a wall inside of a doctor's office in 2010.  (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
(File photo) Devices used to take blood pressure, temperature, and examine eyes and ears rest on a wall inside of a doctor's office in 2010. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Iowans who lost their health insurance carrier in 2018 still can purchase a plan through the Affordable Care Act this year.

Thousands of individuals who were affected by the departure of three insurers from the state insurance market still can purchase a health insurance plan on the ACA marketplace until March 1, according to a news release from the Iowa Insurance Division on Thursday.

The special enrollment period — which goes beyond the standard open-enrollment period that ended Dec. 15, 2017 — allows those affected by the exits of Aetna, Gundersen Health Plan or Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield last year to purchase plans for 2018.

Wellmark’s decision leave affected some 21,400 of the company’s enrollees — or about 1.3 percent of its more than 1.66 million Iowa members. The Iowa Insurance Division said at the time that Aetna reported its decision would affect 32,822 Iowans on the marketplace and 3,383 Iowans off the marketplace.

As of Feb. 13, 46,563 Iowans had coverage under ACA-compliant policies. Of those, 41,742 are receiving federal subsidies, the Insurance Division stated in its release.

The Minnesota-based insurer Medica is the only company in the state marketplace. However, Wellmark announced earlier this month it will return in 2019 to sell ACA-compliant plans on the state insurance market.

The Des Moines-based company withdrew from the individual market after officials said they had lost about $90 million since first joining the market in 2017.

Aetna completely withdrew from the ACA exchanges nationwide in 2018, citing “financial risk and an uncertain outlook.”

Gundersen, which only sold individual policies in five counties in Iowa, also departed beginning of 2018.

The problem insurers still face is that the older and sicker individuals purchasing health plans are more costly. Without enough young and healthy people to help spread out the costs, it’s putting a high concentration of expenses on the individual market.

“Iowa’s individual health insurance market has continued to collapse in 2018 due to the structural defects of the ACA that have caused premiums to skyrocket, pricing out nearly all individuals that are not eligible for federal subsidies,” the Iowa Insurance Division news release stated.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen has said in the past that Iowa’s individual health insurance market is turbulent, causing thousands to be hit with high-premium rates. This drives them from the market, therefore exasperating the issue.

“Overall, we expected roughly 20,000 Iowans to flee the ACA individual health insurance market in 2018 due to skyrocketing costs,” Ommen said in the news release. “Unfortunately, it appears

even more Iowans than we anticipated have left the individual market. In Iowa, we expect that roughly 80 percent of the total premiums paid in 2018 to be paid by federal subsidy dollars. I

continue to call on Congress to fix this federal problem.”

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