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UnitedHealth Group Plans Return to Obamacare Markets in 2021

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 5/12/2020 John Tozzi
a close up of a screen of a cell phone: The UnitedHealthcare website, the health benefits segment of UnitedHealth Group Inc., is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. UnitedHealth is expected to release earnings figures on April 17. © Bloomberg The UnitedHealthcare website, the health benefits segment of UnitedHealth Group Inc., is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. UnitedHealth is expected to release earnings figures on April 17.

(Bloomberg) -- UnitedHealth Group Inc. said it is planning to sell Affordable Care Act health coverage in more states, including Maryland, after mostly withdrawing from the business years ago.

With rising unemployment threatening to leave millions of Americans without the health coverage they get at work, demand for Obamacare plans is expected to climb. The ACA provides subsidies to low and moderate-income people to buy private health insurance.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement Tuesday that UnitedHealthcare, the company’s insurance division, would offer coverage on that state’s ACA exchange in 2021. UnitedHealth intends to offer plans in additional states next year, spokesman Steve Cragle said in an email. He declined to say which other markets the company expects to enter.

Between 25 million and 43 million people could lose employer-provided health insurance if the U.S. jobless rate climbs to 20%, researchers from the Urban Institute estimated this month. The current rate is 14.7%. Nationally, less than half of those losing coverage would get Medicaid, the safety net insurance for low-income people, and about a quarter would get ACA coverage or other private plans, the report forecast. About 29% would become uninsured.

Under such conditions insurers could see their membership rolls on commercial employer accounts shrink, with more people shifting to Medicaid and ACA plans. Insurer Centene Corp., which focuses on the government-backed markets, raised its revenue guidance for 2020 earlier this year on the expectation of higher membership.

UnitedHealth currently sells ACA marketplace plans in three states: Massachusetts, Nevada and New York, Cragle said. The company stopped offering Obamacare coverage in many states in 2017, citing losses.

“As the exchanges have matured and stabilized, we intend to offer exchange plans in those states where we can provide an efficient network and competitive product capable of driving sustainable value for consumers and our state and federal partners,” Cragle said in an email.

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