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Insurance Giant Aetna Walks From Obamacare Exchanges, Hundreds of Thousands of Americans, Amid Antitrust Dispute

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About one in seventeen Americans who get their health insurance on state-level Obamacare exchanges will have to find a new provider next year.

Aetna, one of the country’s largest health insurance company, said on Monday that in 2017 it will stop offering individual plans through eleven states’ Affordable Care Act exchanges. States impacted by the decision include Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona.

About 838,000 people are currently insured through Aetna’s individual plans sold on ACA state exchanges. Roughly 80 percent of them will have to find new providers or buy Aetna coverage sold outside of the exchanges, according to Bloomberg.

The news service noted that Aetna’s withdrawal “raises the prospect that some consumers will only have one insurer to choose from when they buy 2017 coverage” through Obamacare portals.

About 11.1 million people have purchased insurance plans sold on ACA exchanges. About 85 percent receive financial assistance when buying coverage, according to The New York Times.

The Obama administration blasted the move. Healthcare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan reacted by saying insurers “are adapting at different rates” to Obamacare rules that prevent them from “denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.”

Administration officials also suggested Aetna might be retaliating against the federal government for the Justice Department’s decision, last month, to attempt to stop a merger between the company and rival Humana, according to the Times.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she believed there might be a link between Aetna’s decision and the antitrust lawsuit, as the Times noted.

“Aetna may not like the Justice Department’s decision to challenge its merger, and it has every right to fight that decision in court,” Warren said in an Aug. 11 Facebook post. “But violating antitrust law is a legal question, not a political one. 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.”

Aetna had announced on Aug. 2—not long after the Humana merger challenge was filed by the DOJ–that it would review what it offers through Obamacare exchanges. The company has denied that the decision was related to Justice Department antitrust enforcement.

Humana itself is set next year to withdraw many of the individual plans it sells on ACA exchanges. It announced the decision to trim back its offerings in May, as Politico noted.

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Since 2010, Sam Knight's work has appeared in Truthout, Washington Monthly, Salon, Mondoweiss, Alternet, In These Times, The Reykjavik Grapevine and The Nation. In 2012, he worked as a producer for The Alyona Show on RT. He has written extensively about political movements that emerged in Iceland after the 2008 financial collapse, and is currently working on a book about the subject.

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