Anthem drops California small-group exchange

Dave Jones (AP photo/Rich Pedroncelli) Dave Jones (AP photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

One of California's biggest health players has already given up on the state's small-group exchange.

Anthem Blue Cross of California, a unit of WellPoint Inc., said it will stick to selling coverage through the state's PPACA individual exchange.

Anthem also will remain in a private small-group exchange, the company said.

Representatives for the California Health Benefit Exchange, the agency running the state's Covered California exchange program, have argued that, even without Anthem on the small-group menu, they'll still have a competitive market.

"Because Anthem is no longer required to participate in SHOP as a condition of being on the individual exchange, and because Anthem already participates in a private small-group exchange, Anthem has withdrawn its SHOP application," Darrel Ng, an Anthem spokesman, said.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones blasted Anthem small-group rate increases in June. He said exchange managers should keep the company out of its SHOP exchange. 

Jones now is accusing Anthem of withdrawing from the PPACA SHOP exchange program to avoid further public scrutiny.

Jones noted that Aetna Inc. and a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc. decided to withdraw from California's individual health insurance market altogether.

"Anthem will continue selling in the small group health insurance market in California outside the exchange, so there is no impact on choice or competition in the small-group market overall," Jones said.

When carriers sell small-coverage outside of the PPACA exchange system, customers cannot used federal SHOP tax credits to buy the coverage.

Jones said Anthem's decision to stay off the SHOP exchange means "Anthem will not have access to federal tax credit and taxpayer-subsidized business in the small-group market exchange."

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