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Anthem's Decision To Leave Marketplace Will Affect Thousands

[Jonathan Weiss / shutterstock.com]

State officials in Ohio are searching for health insurance solutions now that Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield has announced it will stop offering individual policies in Ohio.

Dept. of Insurance spokesman Chris Brock says about 10,500 people in 18 counties who get their insurance on the federal exchange marketplace won’t find any insurers there next year. He says it’s a new situation for the state to face.

“So there are carriers that are still going to be selling on the exchange in Ohio in 2018," says Brock. "It’s more a matter of are there any carriers that are still selling in that market that would be able to sell in some of these counties that are impacted?”

Ohio’s June 5 deadline for insurers to file their plans for next year is earlier than in most other states, that's part of the reason why the announcement in Ohio came as a surprise.  But Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation – a non-partisan health policy organization - says Ohio has had a relatively successful marketplace since the Affordable Care Act passed.

“It just doesn’t really seem to be a decision that’s about Ohio," says Cox. "It seems to be that it’s about the uncertainty from the White House and Congress. And what that says to me is that Ohio might just be the first state that Anthem’s leaving, there could be more exits to come.”

Congress is currently considering a replacement of the ACA that would eliminate the individual mandate and reduce the subsidies meant to keep premiums low. The Trump administration has also floated the idea of ending subsidy payments to insurance companies that were promised last year when the current rates were set.

Overall, Anthem covers 3.4 million Ohioans, mostly with employer-provided insurance. Those plans won’t be affected by the company's decision.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.