Large insurance companies are continuing to show loses on ACA plans.

Large insurer reports losses, calls for ACA reform

Another large health insurance provider is reporting losses from plans offered on the Affordable Care Act's public health insurance exchange and spelling out concerns for the future of the public exchange.

Aetna Inc. announced the plans it offers through the ACA Marketplace remained unprofitable in 2015. Although profits on ACA plans improved as the year progressed, the company still reported losses of 3 to 4 percentage points, according to Business Insurance.

Despite the financial setback of marketplace plans, the insurer reported a 38.3 percent net income increase in the fourth quarter of 2015 over the year before. The company's revenue also increased by 1.9 percent last year.

However, overall losses suffered on the ACA were down from the previous year for the insurer. As reported by Business Insurance, Aetna Executive Vice President Shawn M. Guertin attributed the improved performance to higher rates, the promotion of medical cost initiatives and risk adjustment. However, CEO Mark T. Bertolini added that the company maintains reservations about the long-term health of ACA plans.

"Aetna's CEO said the company maintains reservations about the long-term health of ACA plans."

"We continue to have serious concerns about the sustainability of the public exchanges," Bertolini said in a call to investors. "We remain concerned about the overall stability of the risk pool."

Speaking with Bloomberg, Guertin added that even though Aetna's ACA performance is improving, that shouldn't distract from the need for changes in the marketplace.

"I don't want that to get lost in this discussion," Guertin said. "We do need things in the long haul to be done to make this a stable risk pool and one that can provide affordable coverage to people over time."

Additional losses reported
As Nasdaq reported, Aetna's announcement is one of many in recent weeks from insurers reporting ACA plans had a negative impact on their 2015 earnings. Anthem Inc. announced enrollment fell below expectations, though it was able to break even for the year. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina also reported a net loss of $400 million for its first two years on the ACA exchange. The company responded by eliminating sales commissions for its agents and suspending advertising of Obamacare plans.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. announced it suffered around $475 million in losses on its ACA plans and deepened its projected losses for 2016. Its latest projections call for $1 billion in losses on Obamacare plans, and the company has suggested it may withdraw from the marketplace in 2017.

According to Forbes contributor Chris Conover, larger insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna will be better able to sustain financial setbacks on ACA plans as the marketplace adjusts. However, it will be more difficult for smaller insurers to continue offering these plans under current ACA policies.

As Conover noted, the Obama administration has already implemented a few changes in response to insurer complaints, including eliminating six special circumstances under which consumers could sign up for health coverage outside of the standard open enrollment period. However, many insurers, including Aetna, have vocalized the desire for additional reform.

That said, Aetna also announced it was satisfied with its overall performance for 2015. In previous statements earlier in the year, Bertolini cautioned it is too early to give up on the ACA exchanges.