By: Haeyoun Park and Audrey Carlsen, NY Times, June 2017

Next year, about 35,000 people buying insurance in Affordable Care Act marketplaces in 45 counties could have no carriers to choose from. This would be the first time that has happened since the marketplaces were opened in 2014.

The estimate is based on a New York Times analysis that also found that about 3 million people in 1,388 counties could have just one insurer available to them.

45 counties with no insurer 1,388 counties with one insurer

See table Here

About 45 percent of counties are expected to have one or no insurer in the marketplaces — where about 12 million people buy their own coverage — unless another carrier steps in.

The analysis started with data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing which companies currently offer plans in each county and combined that with announcements from insurance companies saying which counties they plan to exit or enter next year.

Some insurance companies are still deciding what they will do in 2018, and others may reverse course, so these numbers could go up or down. But they provide an early look at the direction in which the markets are heading.

Most people who buy insurance in the Obamacare marketplaces receive federal subsidies to offset the cost of premiums. In places without any insurers, customers may not have affordable options.

Typically, markets with fewer insurers have also seen larger increases in prices, according to research by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.

People whose marketplace has only one insurer may also have fewer plans to choose from, according to Cynthia Cox, an executive at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Many of these places are in rural areas with few customers, who are costly to cover. Urban or more populated areas tend to offer more choices.

In February, Humana became the first major insurer to pull out of the marketplaces entirely, prompting President Trump to again declare that “Obamacare continues to fail.”

Three months after the Humana announcement, Blue Cross Blue Shield announced that it would step in to fill a void in the Knoxville, Tenn., market. Otherwise, 16 counties in the state would have had no insurance options because Humana is currently the only insurer there.

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