It’d be a shame if something terrible happened to that poorly constructed, expensive, low-enrollment, government-run, fabricated health-insurance marketplace scheme that we’re helping you prop up. — Aetna to Barack Obama, basically
So a giant rent-seeking insurance company is accused of having threatened to leave Obamacare’s health insurance “marketplace” if the government didn’t approve its giant merger. If true, this would be the least surprising development in the past six years of Obamacare fiascos. Any giant regulatory scheme bringing together big business and big government inevitably leads to cronyism and corruption.
Not long after the Justice Department blocked Aetna’s merger with Humana, the company announced it would be scaling back participation in ACA. Now, Obamacare consumers in 11 states won’t be able to keep their insurance even though, one imagines, they like their plans. But choices are getting scarcer by the year. Aetna is now one of around a dozen major insurance providers who’ve dropped completely out or scaled back participation in exchanges.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study estimates that 664 counties will feature only a single insurer on Obamacare exchanges in 2017. In 2016, it was 215. Four entire stateswill have only one Obamacare insurer. In one Arizona county, there may be none. Since Obamacare, in effect, solidified in-state insurance cartels, the exchanges are starting to look very much the same. But opening markets up across state (and national) lines is a silly idea, I bet.
At first, Aetna denied its move was connected the Justice Department’s merger decision. Even in the most generous reading, this turns out not to be exactly true. At Huffington Post, Jonathan Cohn and Jeffery Young have gotten their hands on a letter from Aetna’s CEO that critics seem to believe catches Aetna “threatening” the administration:[I]f the deal were challenged and/or blocked we would need to take immediate actions to mitigate public exchange and ACA small group losses. Specifically, if the DOJ sues to enjoin the transaction, we will immediately take action to reduce our 2017 exchange footprint … [I]nstead of expanding to 20 states next year, we would reduce our presence to no more than 10 states .… [I]t 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. By contrast, if the deal proceeds without the diverted time and energy associated with litigation, we would explore how to devote a portion of the additional synergies … to supporting even more public exchange coverage over the next few years.
The correspondence has gotten Democrats very agitated, even though it is their policies creating the problem. Even before the letter was uncovered, Elizabeth Warren (“the health of the American people should not be used as bargaining chips to force the government to bend to one giant company’s will”) and others lamented the rise of corporate power rather than the convoluted regulatory environment that fosters an unhealthy relationship between business interests and government power.
To be honest, although I have little doubt Aetna was hoping its position on the exchanges would help with the merger, the letter sounds less like extortion and more like a sensible decision that any accountable executive would make when his company is facing losses. The real outrage isn’t that insurers like Aetna are abandoning Obamacare, but that companies like Aetna likely participated in Obamacare for cronyistic reasons to begin with.
ACA has inhibited competition, which has only benefited big companies. Still, insurers are losing billions in the exchanges and at some point it’s too expensive to be in bed with Obama.
Obamacare means the goverment in your medicine cabnet and emergency room
Warren doesn’t care about the health of the American citizen; she cares about socializing medicine and, then the rest of the economy.
Obamacare is failing and rather than be dragged down with it, Aetna is going to get out before they become a stepping stone to single payer.
Behold the VA; behold the future. The VA is what healthcare looks like when you are helpless with no options.
@Bill: Even worse than the VA care is the Indian Health Service.
@Randy: Yeah, show me some government accountability for letting people die, then get with me on turning my healthcare over to the government.