A growing number of people in Obamacare are finding out their health insurance plans will disappear from the program next year, forcing them to find new coverage even as options shrink and prices rise.
At least 1.4 million people in 32 states will lose the Obamacare plan they have now, according to state officials contacted by Bloomberg. That’s largely caused by Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and some state or regional insurers quitting the law’s marketsfor individual coverage.
Sign-ups for Obamacare coverage begin next month. Fallout from the quitting insurers has emerged as the latest threat to the law, which is also a major focal point in the U.S. presidential election. While it’s not clear what all the consequences of the departing insurers will be, interviews with regulators and insurance customers suggest that plans will be fewer and more expensive, and may not include the same doctors and hospitals.
It may also mean that instead of growing in 2017, Obamacare could shrink. As of March 31, the law covered 11.1 million people; an Oct. 13 S&P Global Ratings report predicted that enrollment next year will range from an 8 percent decline to a 4 percent gain.
Last year in Minnesota, Theresa Puffer, 61, used Obamacare to sign up for a BlueCross BlueShield plan after leaving her job following a skin cancer diagnosis. “I would have had a hard time finding any sort of coverage before the ACA,” Puffer said by phone.
Next year, Puffer’s plan is disappearing from Obamacare — making her one of about 20,000 Minnesotans in the same situation. To make matters worse, premiums for other plans in the state will rise by at least 50 percent, though subsidies under the law can help cushion the blow.
“Trying to determine which would be the best plan for my situation is not easy,” Puffer said. Her dermatologist appears to be out of network in other plans, she said. “I’m willing to pay a higher premium to see him, because when you have cancer you want to stay with the same group of doctors,” she said. “I’ve spent so much time trying to figure out what my options are.”