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Ten health insurers apply for Illinois online marketplace in 2015

Updated: June 12, 2014 6:29PM



Ten health insurers have applied to be part of the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace in 2015 for Illinois, including for the first time, the state’s second-largest insurer, UnitedHealthcare.

And 504 health insurance plans were submitted to the Illinois Department of Insurance for 2015, including 306 individual plans and 198 plans for the small group insurance marketplace, the department said Thursday. Last year – the first year the ‘Obamacare’ marketplace existed – eight insurers offered 165 plans, including 120 individual plans and 45 small group plans.

UnitedHealthcare Group Inc. confirmed Thursday that it had put in an application to be part of the marketplace. So did three other insurers who were already in the marketplace, including the state’s largest health insurance market Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“We look forward to continuing our conversations throughout the approval process,” said Kevin W. Shermach, a spokesperson for UnitedHealthcare.

The online marketplace is where middle-income uninsured or underinsured Americans are supposed to be able to go to shop for new, more affordable health insurance options, with the help of tax credits. There has been some disappointment, though, in the prices of the insurance plans being offered there, as well as the number of doctors available on the plans.

“The significant increase in the number of carriers and the number of plans they are offering represents good news for Illinois health care consumers,” Jennifer Koehler, Get Covered Illinois executive director, said in a statement. “The strong interest in the marketplace demonstrates that the ACA is working as intended to encourage competition in the health insurance market. It means consumers will have even more good options to choose from next year.”

The fact that more insurers have expressed an interest in being part of the marketplace also goes against what many had feared: that carriers would pull out of offering coverage under the Affordable Care Act because there were not enough healthy people signing up in the marketplace to keep financial risks from rising.

The Illinois Department of Insurance declined to say which insurers had applied or what their proposed plans and rates would be until their applications to participate in the marketplace have been approved. They said they would decide on which plans would be selected on or before August 8, 2014. 

The state chose eight insurers to be a part of the online marketplace in 2014: Blue Cross; Aetna Inc.; Coventry Health Care of Illinois Inc.; Coventry Health and Life Insurance Co.; Health Alliance Medical Plans; Humana Inc.; Humana Insurance Co.; and Land of Lincoln Health Inc. Co-op.

Blue Cross, Health Alliance Medical Plans and Land of Lincoln have confirmed that they will again be part of the 2015 marketplace, but they declined to discuss the plans that would be offered, their spokespeople said.

A spokesman for Aetna and its’ subsidiary Coventry noted that its CEO Mark Bertolini “recently said that our ‘bias’ is to be in the same markets we were in this year. But we won’t confirm where we plan to participate until after all of the filing periods and state discussions are done.”

Humana, meanwhile, has not announced any decisions about 2015 exchange participation.

About 217,000 gained private coverage offered through the exchange, so far.

Open enrollment for 2015 starts on Nov. 15.

mjthomas@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1



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