CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Carelink/Coventry Health Care has pulled out of the state's individual insurance marketplace, leaving Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia as the only current option for West Virginia residents who buy subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
"We came to this decision [not to participate in the marketplace] as part of our ongoing review of Aetna's overall company strategy, including the impact of the Coventry acquisition which closed in May, after the original exchange filings were submitted for both companies," Walt Cherniak, a spokesman for Aetna, Carelink/Coventry's parent company, wrote in an email to the Gazette.
"We are taking a measured, multi-year approach to exchanges. In 2014 we are focusing on the markets where we can be most competitive and deliver the greatest value to our customers," Cherniak said.
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, which already serves about 70 percent of the state's insurance market, is the only other company to apply and be accepted for the marketplace, said Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
"Clearly, we were hoping for more competition in the marketplace," Bryant said. "I'm hopeful that, over time, more companies will come into the marketplace and offer their products."
A third company -- Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Pittsburgh -- is another possibility for the state's marketplace. It's unclear what differences there would be between the company's Pittsburgh office and the one in West Virginia, Bryant said.
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia will offer 11 insurance plans, Bryant said. The company is not likely to offer platinum plans, or those with high premiums and low co-payments that are meant to attract people with significant health problems, Bryant said.
Cherniak didn't say how many and which state's exchanges Coventry and Aetna will be participating in. The company is in the process of finalizing contracts in several states and an announcement about which states is expected later this week, he said.
"It is important to note that this decision does not impact our existing business in the state," Cherniak said. "We are committed to the West Virginia market and will continue to serve individual consumers in the off-exchange market, as well as small and large employers.
"We will continue to assess our ability to participate on West Virginia's exchange in 2015 and beyond," he said.
Coventry/Carelink serves about 96,000 people statewide, Cherniak said.
Enrollment in the insurance marketplace, where residents purchase health insurance plans as required by the Affordable Care Act, is planned to begin Oct. 1. Coverage will start Jan. 1, 2014. The exchange is a partnership between the state and federal government.
A spokesman for the West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner said officials who would be able to comment on the matter were unavailable Tuesday afternoon.Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.