- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2017

Anthem, a major insurer, filled Obamacare’s “bare counties” on Friday by reversing its decision to withdraw from Virginia’s marketplace.

Exits by other insurers had left Virginians in 63 counties without a single choice on the exchanges set by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Anthem said it sized up the situation and decided to walk back its plans, announced in early August, to leave the state’s marketplace in 2018.

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“This decision will positively impact up to 70,000 Virginians—many of whom would not have had access to important health care coverage,” the company said.

Obamacare’s marketplaces have been struggling with a lack of choice. About half of U.S. counties will have only one insurer to choose from on their exchanges next year, and nearly seven dozen counties covering over 90,000 people had at some point faced the prospect of having zero options next year, fueling President Trump’s claim the law was “imploding” and needed to be replaced.

Insurance regulators across the country worked around the clock in recent months to fill “bare” counties after a string of insurers, fed up with diminishing financial returns, decided to flee the program.

Obamacare’s champions declared victory in late August, when Ohio regulators said they convinced a nonprofit insurer to cover the final bald spot in the nation — Paulding County — though Optima’s decision to withdraw from Virginia last week reintroduced the problem.

Anthem’s decision patched over the problem— at least for now.

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, a Republican, said it was a “positive step” and that lawmakers are grateful to the company, but that Obamacare’s struggles would likely continue.

“Unfortunately, this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The Affordable Care Act is collapsing, and Congress owes the American people a solution,” he said.

Exiting insurers have blamed both the law itself — it failed to attract enough young and healthy customers to balance out an influx of sicker, costlier ones — and the uncertainty instilled by Mr. Trump’s wavering commitment to “cost-sharing” payments for insurers and the individual mandate that requires people to get health insurance or pay a tax.

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