- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Two more health insurance carriers say they won’t sell individual policies in Oregon’s Deschutes County in 2017.

The Tuesday announcement adds to what has already been a significant exodus and leaves Deschutes residents with few options, reported The Bend Bulletin (https://bit.ly/29kj8lW).

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon and BridgeSpan Health will not sell individual policies in the county, and BridgeSpan will also stop selling such policies in Crook and Jefferson counties.

Their departure leaves only three carriers selling those policies in Deschutes County next year: Health Net Health Plan of Oregon, Oregon’s Health CO-OP and PacificSource Health Plans. This year, eight carriers offered the individual plans.

“It’s really narrowing down,” said Patrick O’Keefe, an agent and owner of Cascade Insurance Center in Bend. “Consumers are not going to have a lot of options.”

Health insurance carriers have been rapidly losing money since 2014, mostly on the volatile individual market. Oregon’s carriers lost $217 million in 2015, much more than the $36 million they lost the year before.

Regence and BridgeSpan are affiliated companies. Their leadership declined to comment on the departure, although Regence’s president of health plans operations issued a statement saying that delivering health care requires market stability.

O’Keefe speculated that the St. Charles Health System may have factored into the carriers’ departures. The hospital is the only one serving the entire region, meaning carriers have less power to negotiate lower rates on medical services.

St. Charles spokeswoman Lisa Goodman wrote in an email that neither Regence nor BridgeSpan Health contacted the health system outside of usual business to discuss the market or their relationship.

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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