Medica

The headquarters of Medica in Minnetonka, Minn. 

AP file photo

Nebraskans who get individual health insurance on the federal Marketplace exchange got some potentially good news Thursday.

Medica, the only insurer that has yet to drop out of the Affordable Care Act market in Nebraska, said it plans to file a rate request with the state Department of Insurance next week.

"We will be filing Tuesday or Wednesday of next week," said Greg Bury, a spokesman for the Minnesota-based insurer.

Thursday had been the deadline to submit proposed rates, but the department decided to provide an extension.

Director Bruce Ramge said companies still were expected to provide policy form filings by the end of the business day Thursday, although the department provided a time extension on the filing of actual rates.

Filing a rate request does not obligate a company to provide coverage. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska filed a rate request in June of last year and then announced in September that it was pulling out of the ACA market.

Bury said it is "fair to say" that Medica at this time is still planning to offer individual coverage that is ACA-compliant in Nebraska for 2018.

Ramge did not say whether the extension was specifically for Medica, but he said the department is not expecting filings from any other insurers to offer ACA-compliant individual health plans next year.

That leaves Medica as the last hope for nearly 100,000 people who had individual policies this year.

Aetna, which insured about 50,000 Nebraskans through the Marketplace exchange, announced in May that it will not be back next year. That followed pullouts by both UnitedHealth and Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which both dropped out of the exchange this year.

Blue Cross had continued to sell off-exchange plans that met the ACA requirements to more than 12,000 people, but it announced earlier this month that it will no longer offer those plans.

Medica, which currently insures about 36,000 people in Nebraska, has been making contingency plans for both Nebraska and Iowa, where it also could wind up as the only ACA insurer in all but a handful of counties.

In an interview earlier this week with news website Vox, Geoff Bartsh, Medica’s vice president of individual market business, said the company has to consider whether it can realistically absorb so many potential new customers.

“Each state is asking questions about their own state, and they should, but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture and what is realistic for an insurance plan our size,” Bartsh said in the interview. “It’s a marketplace that hasn’t been wildly successful, and this would be dramatic growth.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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