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Despite UnitedHealth's exchange struggles, other insurers still optimistic

Anthem, Aetna say individual market performance unchanged despite challenges

Now that UnitedHealth Group has made it clear that it is losing money on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the focus is turning to the country's other major insurers to determine just how worried the Obama administration--and consumers--should be.

In Securities and Exchange Commission filings Friday, both Aetna and Anthem said that the performance of their individual businesses have held steady through the end of October.

Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said in a statement that the insurer remains committed to the business and "continuing our dialogue with policymakers and regulators regarding how we can improve the stability of the individual market," according to the Associated Press.

In their recent third-quarter earnings reports, the two insurers acknowledged challenges in the individual market, with Anthem noting lower-than-expected enrollment in ACA plans and Aetna saying it will operate on exchanges in two fewer states in 2016. Swedish, however, said he's optimistic that there will ultimately be "stabilization and rationality in pricing" in the individual market, while Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said it's "way too early to call it quits" on the exchanges.

For its part, the Obama administration remains confident in the exchanges, saying it does not believe one insurer's statement is the sign of any trend. Kaiser Permanente and Molina also issued statements in support of the ACA in the wake of UnitedHealth's announcement, the AP notes. 

Yet Peter Costa, an analyst at Wells Fargo & Co., believes that UnitedHealth's announcement may signal a turning point for the exchanges. "We expect that the experience of insurers will either improve in 2017 and beyond, or they will choose to no longer participate in the market," he said, according to Bloomberg.

And America's Health Insurance Plans remains concerned about how all insurers are faring in the individual market, AHIP President and CEO Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement emailed to FierceHealthPayer.

"We've been very clear with the [Obama] administration about the serious challenges facing consumers and health plans in this exchange market," she said. "When health plans cannot rely on the government to meet its obligations, individuals and families are harmed as a result. The administration must act to ensure this program works as intended and consumers are protected."

To learn more:
- here's the Aetna filing (.pdf)
- here's the Anthem filing (.pdf)
- read the AP report
- check out the Bloomberg article

Related Articles:
Losses lead UnitedHealth to rethink role in ACA exchanges
UnitedHealth's exchange exit threat: What it means
Q3: Big five insurers post positive results, but struggle on exchanges
Insurers shift strategies amid challenges of exchange market