Just weeks before the Federal enrollment period was set to open under the Affordable Care Act, Coventry withdrew from the Kansas Health Insurance Marketplace leaving 45,000 Kansans surprised and forced to find new insurance.

Coventry’s exit significantly cuts the available options of insurance products available in the marketplace. Companies available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) federal marketplace enrollment are Blue Cross and BlueShield of Kansas, Inc., BlueCross BlueShield Kansas Solutions, Inc., BlueCross and BlueShield of Kansas City (for consumers in Johnson and Wyandotte counties), and new to the market this year, UnitedHealthcare of the Midwest, Inc.

Coventry didn’t inform Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer of its decision until a few weeks ago, said Clark Shultz, the department’s director of government affairs.

“We are so close to open enrollment, this is the very last minute,” Shultz said. “It has really taken us by surprise.”

According to a Coventry spokesman, Kansans who currently have Coventry insurance are covered through the end of the year. However, that still requires Kansas Coventry customers to act quickly. If they fail to sign up for a new plan no later than Dec. 15, they may suffer a lapse in their insurance. 

Open enrollment began Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2016. However for coverage to be effective starting January 1, individuals must sign up or make changes to their insurance no later than Dec. 15.

In August, Selzer reduced rate increases requested by Coventry and the other companies participating in the marketplace. Coventry sought increases of 20% to 35%, depending on the plan.

A media release issued by the department didn’t specify how Selzer dealt with Coventry’s requests but said overall that he had reduced the proposed increases by an average of 9.4% to 25.4%.

The Coventry spokesperson did say if the reduction in their requested rate increase played a role in the company’s decision to depart. The official statements given for leaving was the company made the decision after reviewing a range of business factors, including the company’s competitive position in the 17 states in which it offers marketplace plans. 

“Once we conducted that review, we reluctantly came to the decision that we could no longer meet the needs of our individual on-exchange members in Kansas.”

Since the rates for 2016 prior to Coventry’s exit, their exit won’t have an impact on insurance premiums for the upcoming year.

Since Selzer previously said United Healthcare entering the market should help push premiums down, it seems reasonable that Kansans might expect Coventry’s exit to drive up premiums in 2017, especially if another company fails to enter the Kansas market.

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