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Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield passes again on selling policies on federal exchange


DES MOINES, Iowa — One of the state's largest health insurers, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, has opted for the third straight year to not sell policies to Iowa residents on the federal online marketplace.

However, another large insurer, UnitedHealthcare, has announced it will begin offering plans to residents on the website, the Des Moines Register ( reports.

Coventry Health Care said residents can continue to shop for its policies on the exchange.

Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said he expects a third, unidentified company to file an application this week to sell health coverage to Iowa residents. Companies must declare this week whether they'll offer plans to residents on the federal exchange.

"It's good news. People are going to have some choices," he said.

Iowa has one of the lowest participation rates for residents taking advantage of Affordable Care Act subsidies in the nation, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

The study found that just 20 percent of Iowa residents who could have qualified for premium subsidies last year used them. South Dakota residents were the second-least likely to use the subsidies.

Experts say part of the reason for the low percentage in Iowa is because of Wellmark not joining the federal marketplace.

Wellmark disclosed Monday that it wouldn't offer policies to Iowa residents next year on the exchange, but those still interested in the company's plans can purchase them elsewhere. However, they won't qualify for the subsidies.

"It's not a matter of if we will participate, it is really a matter of when," said Laura Jackson, Wellmark's vice president.

Information from: The Des Moines Register,

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