Arizona’s Pinal County was reportedly the only place in the nation without an exchange that would allow residents to secure health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That has changed as it appears there is now at least one option for the roughly 10,000 people who are currently enrolled in ACA plans.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona will offer plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange in Arizona’s Pinal County next year, resolving a situation that drew a national spotlight because it represented a major challenge to the mechanics of the health law.
When Aetna Inc. announced last month that it would withdraw from the exchange in Arizona, among other states, it left Pinal at risk of becoming the first U.S. county without a single insurer selling exchange plans. Aetna had been expected to sell exchange plans in Pinal County, where approximately 10,000 people had signed up for ACA plans.
AzCentral.com quoted Jeff Stelnik, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s senior vice president of strategy, sales and marketing, as saying, “Blue Cross is re-entering (Pinal) despite the fact we see significant challenges with the ACA (Affordable Care Act). We decided to balance those financial challenges against the concern of Pinal County residents not having an option.”
Earlier this summer, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) announced it would not be offering health plans in Pinal County next year. However, according to Tucson.com, BCBS officials changed their minds saying they were “extremely concerned that Pinal residents had no options under the exchange.”
The report added that Blue Cross should be able to easily return to the county because it currently sells plans there. BCBS is seeking final approval from the Arizona Department of Insurance and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for five Pinal County plans across a range of coverage tiers.
The dilemma in Pinal County is an extreme example of what is happening around the country. Companies are citing losses on the exchanges because older, sicker-than-expected people are signing up for insurance, and not enough young and healthy people are buying coverage. About 1 million people remain uninsured in Arizona, and young and healthy residents make up a large part of that segment. They pay a penalty for not having insurance when they file their taxes.