Uh, oh: California's biggest insurer for small business has no interest in the small-business exchanges

Earlier this summer, three of California’s largest insurance companies announced that they were disinclined to participate in the state’s ObamaCare health insurance exchange system, and it didn’t take long for both Aetna and United Health to decide to stop offering plans through the individual insurance market altogether and instead opt to focus their activities on offering insurance through employers only.

Now, Anthem Blue Cross — California’s largest insurer for small businesses — is announcing that they have no intention of getting involved in the exchanges that ObamaCare plans to set up for the use of small business, and would much rather stick to going it alone. Via the LA Times:

Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross is spurning California’s new insurance market for small businesses, a potential setback in the state’s rollout of the federal healthcare law.

Anthem, a unit of WellPoint Inc., is California’s largest insurer for small employers. The company’s surprising move raised concerns about the state’s ability to offer competitive rates and attract businesses to its new Covered California exchange that opens Jan. 1. …

Friday’s disclosure made Anthem the first big insurer in California to publicly pass on the small-business pool. Some other big names, such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Aetna Inc., have already opted out of California’s larger exchange for individual consumers.

Oh, my. At the national level, ObamaCare’s advocates have been concerned that the specialty small-business exchanges, which the president so extravagantly promised would be one of the law’s many generous and helpful provisions, are not going to be able to attract enough insurers to keep them competitive or even viable. There’s been only piddling interest across other states, and once more, California is stepping forward to provide some of the pioneering examples of insurers outright rejecting to get involved in the state-run scheming. The Obama administration is already delaying on its promises to small businesses as they try not to panic about their priority of getting the individual exchanges up and running on time, but this certainly doesn’t bode well for the well-trumpeted choice and competition these exchanges were supposed to inherently foster.

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