UnitedHealth’s pullback from exchange business could hit rural counties

From the Star Tribune:

UnitedHealthcare’s retreat from the exchange business could contribute to pocketbook pain for some rural consumers next year.

A study this month analyzed the Minnetonka-based health insurer’s offerings on exchanges in 34 states, and concluded departures by UnitedHealthcare wouldn’t make a big difference for premiums overall.

That’s because UnitedHealthcare’s prices aren’t that low in many markets, and the insurer faces plenty of competitors in counties with large population centers.

But in some parts of the country, UnitedHealthcare is one of just a few options on the market. In most counties across Iowa and eastern Nebraska, for example, the benchmark plan for a 40-year-old would increase anywhere from $25 to $100 per month without UnitedHealthcare, said Cynthia Cox, a researcher with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“There are certain areas, particularly rural counties and some southern states, where the impact on consumers will be more significant,” Cox said. “That’s because those areas will be left with limited insurer participation.”

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