Rural U.S. in danger of becoming insurance desert: 6 things to know

As insurance companies begin to retreat from unprofitable markets, some residents living in rural parts of the U.S. will have just one insurer's plans to choose from on the government exchanges next year, reports Wall Street Journal.

Below are six things to know about these possible insurance deserts.

1. In Alaska and Alabama, state regulators expect to have only one insurer offering plans on the government insurance exchanges for the entire state next year.

2. Particular regions in several other states, including Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma, are also expected to have only one insurer offering government-subsidized plans.

3. Overall, more than 650 counties across the U.S. are expected to have just one insurer operating on the exchanges in 2017, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. That number is up from 225 counties in 2016.

4. Of those counties in jeopardy of having a single insurer next year, 70 percent have mostly rural populations.

5. Inovalon, a HIT technology firm, said insurers are deserting rural markets because they are not as profitable as other regions. By studying a health insurance claims database comprised of nearly 2 million exchange enrollees, Inovalon found rural residents racked up significantly higher medical costs than urban enrollees in 2015.

6. Some regulators, like Mark Fowler, chief of staff at Alabama's department of insurance, are worried a lack of competition on the exchanges will result in more expensive plans for consumers.

More articles on payer issues: 

Wellmark to raise rates at least 38% for some Iowa customers
Medica, Aetna plan to sell coverage in Kansas
6 things to know about non-embedded deductibles

 

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