- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - At a time when some insurers are threatening to abandon Affordable Care Act exchanges, Aetna plans to offer individual plans on the health care marketplace for the first time in portions of Maine, giving consumers more choices.

Aetna intends to join Community Health Options, Harvard Pilgrim and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in offering individual plans in 2017, according to a filing with the state. Aetna already offered individual plans but they were outside the health exchanges created under the federal law.

“More competition works to the customers’ advantage. There will be more products to choose from,” Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa said.

All told, more than 84,000 Mainers are signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The next open enrolment begins Nov. 1.

Mainers’ participation in insurance exchanges has been relatively strong, but there has criticism that there are only a handful of insurers offering plans. Some states provide hundreds of plans for consumers to choose from, but that’s not the case in Maine.

The arrival of Aetna could help.

Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna has proposed providing individual plans in nine counties: York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Franklin, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Androscoggin and Waldo, according to Emily Brostek from Consumers for Affordable Health Care in Augusta.

“Those plans will be available to most of Maine’s population - not everybody unfortunately,” she said. “It’s still very good news for the state.”

Lewiston-based Community Health Options holds the biggest market share with 80 percent of individual plans in the insurance exchange in Maine.

After losing $30 million last year, Community Health Options is proposing a 23 percent increase in rates for the individual market. Harvard Pilgrim proposed a 19 percent increase, and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield proposed a 14 percent hike.

Aetna offered individual insurance plans last year, but not through the exchange. Its filing with the state indicates its initial individual offerings on the exchange would reflect an increase of 14 percent compared to plans it offered last year.

Walt Cherniak, an Aetna spokesman, declined to comment on specific plans for Maine.

“We have preserved our options to enter certain new geographies, pending careful evaluation of marketplace conditions,” he said in a statement.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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