Next year, there will be 1,332 counties in the United States that will only have one health insurer operating on the Obamacare exchanges, according to recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The agency has been looking at health insurer announcements and compiling data to see which counties will have either one or no Obamacare insurers operating in 2018. Roughly a month ago, the agency projected that 1,300 counties would have only one insurer operating next year.
The agency also previously reported there were 49 counties left with no insurer operating next year, but recent data finds that the number has declined to 40 counties.
"The map currently shows that nationwide 40 counties are projected to have no issuers, meaning that Americans in these counties could be without coverage on the Exchanges in 2018," the agency said. "It's also projected that 1,332 counties—over 40 percent of counties nationwide—could only have one issuer in 2018."
"This could represent more than 2.3 million Exchange participants that will only have one choice and may not be able to receive the coverage they need," the agency said.
In addition, the report finds that average premiums have increased by 21.6 percent between 2016 and 2017 while carrier participation has declined by 31.2 percent since 2015.
"We continue to see a decline in issuer participation in the Health Insurance Exchanges leaving consumers with fewer and fewer insurance options," said CMS administrator Seema Verma. "I am deeply concerned about the crisis situation facing the individual market in many states across the nation."
Even if an individual lives in an area where there is no insurer offering health coverage, individuals will still be forced to purchase coverage because of Obamacare's individual mandate.
Senators Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) have introduced legislation that would protect people from being penalized for not having insurance when there are no insurers operating on the exchanges in their area.
The Health Care Options Act of 2017 would waive the penalty in these cases and allow individuals to purchase coverage outside of the exchanges.
"This legislation would help those in Knoxville and across the country by allowing any American who receives a subsidy and has no insurance available on their exchange next year to use that subsidy to buy any state-approved insurance off of the exchange," said Sen. Corker. "Second, the bill would waive the Affordable Care Act requirement that these Americans, who have zero insurance options with their subsidies, have to pay a penalty for not purchasing insurance."
"Third, this legislation will help bring peace of mind between now and the beginning of next year to millions of Americans, some of the most vulnerable people in the country, who face having zero options of health insurance to purchase with their subsidy," he said.