FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s fourth-largest health insurer says it will stop selling individual plans in the state next year, prompting another round of finger-pointing between a pair of feuding governors over the merits of President Obama’s federal health care law.
The decision by Baptist Health Plan means about 7,000 people will have to find a new insurance provider next year. And it means nearly half of the state’s 120 counties will have just one company selling plans on the state’s new federally operated health insurance exchange. Most counties will have two companies offering plans off the exchange.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin called the company’s exit from the individual market “a good business decision” and said the Affordable Care Act has been “a financial impossibility from the moment it was put into place.”
“You are going to see a slippery death spiral continue,” Bevin said. “I don’t see it will stop until the entire system implodes.”
Kentucky is one of 13 states that operates its own health insurance exchange, a website where people with lower incomes can purchase policies with the federal government helping pay a portion of their monthly premiums. But Bevin, citing high costs to the state, will dismantle that system at the end of this year and move the state to a federally-operated exchange.
Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who created Kentucky’s health exchange with an executive order, blamed Baptist Health Plan’s exit not on the Affordable Care Act, but on Congress’ refusal to fund a program designed to help stabilize insurers during the first few years of the new law.
“It’s disappointing to see that the health and well-being of Kentuckians has once again become a partisan issue,” Beshear said. “However, in spite of the resulting increased instability in the insurance markets, hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians are still benefiting from universal access to health insurance.”
U.S. Health and Human Services spokeswoman Marjorie Connolly said most people who purchase plans on the federal exchange pay less than $75 per month.
Those who purchased Baptist Health Plan policies on the state exchange can use them until Dec. 31. Plans purchased off the exchange will expire March 31, 2017. The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 1.
Baptist Health Plan will continue to sell group health insurance plans to employers along with Medicare Advantage plans. But its decision to exit the individual market makes it the third company to pull its plans from Kentucky’s health exchange. The exchange, along with an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, has contributed to the state’s historic increase in the number of people who have health insurance.
In a letter to the Kentucky Department of Insurance, Baptist Health Plan President James S. Fritz said blamed the federal Affordable Care Act for making the company’s individual products “unsustainable.” Company spokeswoman Jessica Kearney also blamed “changes in the market,” including the exit of Aetna and the Kentucky Health Cooperative, which folded last year.