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UnitedHealth to stop selling Obamacare coverage in California

UnitedHealth to stop selling Obamacare coverage in California
The UnitedHealth Group campus in Minnetonka, Minn. (Jim Mone / Associated Press)

Health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, which sat out California's implementation of the Affordable Care Act until this year, will not sell health plans on the state's insurance marketplace in 2017, state and company officials said Tuesday.

United's move will have almost no effect on Covered California, as the insurer has only about 1,200 members this year, accounting for less than one tenth of 1% of the marketplace's 1.4 million consumers.

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United's current customers will continue to have coverage through the end of this year. But they will have to select new coverage for 2017 during the open enrollment period this fall.

"We will learn in July whether any new plans will join Covered California or if any of our existing plans will expand their coverage areas, as they did in 2016," said Covered California spokesman James Scullary.

Minnesota-based UnitedHealth, the nation's largest health insurer, announced in April that that it would stop selling health plans through the health law next year in most of the 34 of states where it operates, citing losses in the marketplaces. But the company had not said what it would do in California.

Several other insurers, including state Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, have reported similar challenges in recent months. And more than a dozen nonprofit insurance cooperatives created through the law have closed because they were overwhelmed by medical claims they couldn't afford.

But other insurers, including California-based Kaiser Permanente and Indiana-based Anthem, another major player in the California market, have been more bullish on the new marketplaces.

UnitedHealth's decision to exit Covered California after just one year was first reported by Kaiser Health News.

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