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47 Counties Projected To Have No Obamacare Insurer in 2018

Individuals will still be forced to pay penalty for not having insurance even if no insurer is operating on exchanges

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• June 14, 2017 12:00 pm

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There are 47 counties in the United States that are projected to have no insurer participating in the Affordable Care Act exchanges in 2018, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Insurers such as Anthem and Aetna have announced this year that they are planning exits from the marketplace, which will leave some areas with no options.

The agency looked at health insurer announcements through June 9 and created a map to show which counties will have no Obamacare insurer in 2018. This map will change based on future announcements if more insurers exit.

"As many as 1,200 counties—nearly 40 percent of counties nationwide—could have only one issuer in 2018," the agency explains. "Currently, for 2018 at least 35,000 active Exchange participants live in the counties projected to be without coverage in 2018, and roughly 2.4 million Exchange participants are projected to have one issuer. It's expected that the number of consumers with no coverage choices will rise."

Despite the fact that some individuals will live in an area where there is no insurer offering coverage, they will still be bound by Obamacare's individual mandate, which requires a person to purchase health insurance or be forced to pay a penalty.

Senators Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) have introduced legislation that would protect these 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 the exchange next year to use that subsidy to buy any state-approved insurance off of the exchange," said Sen. Alexander. "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."

"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.

According to Seema Varma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency is working to provide access and relief for those individuals in these counties.

"This is yet another failing report card for the Exchanges," Varma said. "The American people have fewer insurance choices and in some counties no choice at all. CMS is working with state departments of insurance and issuers to find ways to provide relief and help restore access to health care plans, but our actions are by no means a long-term solution to the problems we're seeing with the Insurance Exchanges."