CMS Reports Downturn in Insurer Participation for 2018 Marketplaces

Initial applications for insurer participation in 2018 dropped 38% from 2017.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced 141 individual market qualified health plan (QHP) issuers submitted an application to offer health plans in the individual exchanges in 2018, a significant drop from the previous year.

At this time in 2016, 227 insurers submitted an application to participate in 2017's marketplace, which is 38% higher than 2018’s initial filings, according to a press release.

At the beginning of 2017 enrollment, insurer participation decreased from 227 applications to 167 that were actually selling plans on the exchange. The 27% drop in participation may mean that Americans could have even fewer choices in 2018 than currently projected.

This issue has been common for insurer participation. For 2016, 281 insurers submitted an initial application, but only 237 participated, according to the CMS. These statistics show it is likely that less that 141 insurers will actually participate in 2018 exchanges.

In order to participate in the federal exchanges, insurers must sign a QHP contract by the end of September, according to the release. Depending on what happens with healthcare reform, insurer participation is likely to change.

The CMS believes that the low initial interest in participating highlights the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act; however, the uncertainty of the exchanges may also have played a role in reducing participation.

“This is further proof that the Affordable Care Act is failing,” said Seema Verma, CMS administrator. “Insurers continue to flee the Exchanges, causing Americans to lose their choice for health insurance or lose their coverage all together. These numbers are clear: the status quo is not working. The American people deserve healthcare choices and access to quality, affordable healthcare coverage.”