Behind the Headlines: As Aetna pulls out of Missouri’s health care exchange, what’s next? | St. Louis Public Radio

Behind the Headlines: As Aetna pulls out of Missouri’s health care exchange, what’s next?

Aug 19, 2016

This week, health care company Aetna (in Missouri: Coventry) announced it would pull out from Missouri’s Affordable Care Act health exchange next year, leaving Missouri residents fewer choices for health insurance. On Friday’s “Behind the Headlines,” St. Louis on the Air will take a look at the background behind this decision, how it impacts people in our region, and the implications for the future of the ACA.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, analysts believe this move is a way for Aetna to pressure the U.S. government to stop blocking the health care giant’s merger with Humana.

Related: Aetna CEO To Justice Department: Block Our Deal And We'll Drop Out Of Obamacare

Saint Louis University law professor Sidney Watson joined host Don Marsh alongside Tim Greaney, a SLU law professor and co-director of the Center for Health Law Studies at the university.

"Concentration, too few competitors, really makes a difference," said Greaney. "There's a mountain of economic evidence that shows when you get fewer competitors in the insurance business or the hospital business, prices go up. When those prices go up, premiums go up. When we find markets going from four to three insurers, three to two, two to one, prices go up. That's as true in the exchanges as in other markets."'

Greaney said that 83 percent of Missouri's 114 counties will be left with only one carrier on the exchange as a result of Aetna's actions. No county in Missouri will have the option to choose even among three competitors. 

"One of the unfortunate ironies: we'll be left with Anthem and Cigna in the St. Louis area. Well, they're merging," Greaney said.

Listen to the full discussion here:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.