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Next Year, Iowans May Be Unable To Purchase Individual Insurance Policies Under Affordable Care Act


People in 94 of Iowa’s 99 counties may have no options in 2018 for buying individual healthcare polices on the state's insurance exchange that was created under the Affordable Care Act. 

Currently nearly 48,000 people have insurance through Iowa's ACA exchange. But recently two of the three insurers providing individual plans announced they were leaving the Iowa market next year.

That left Minnesota-based Medica to be the exchange's likely sole participant. Now Medica is saying that it too may be leaving the state.

“Without swift action by the state or Congress to provide stability to Iowa’s individual insurance market, Medica will not be able to serve the citizens of Iowa in the manner and breadth that we do today," says spokesman Greg Bury in an emailed statement. "We are examining the potential of limited offerings, but our ability to stay in the Iowa insurance market in any capacity is in question at this point.”

One Iowan who will likely be affected if Medica leaves is Geoff Wood, who has purchased insurance through the exchange for every year that it’s been available. Wood owns a co-working space called Gravitate in downtown Des Moines, and often talks with people who are thinking about starting their own businesses. 

"That’s something that we talk a lot about, is what that’s going to be like to insure yourself for the first time," he says. "I’ve been very concerned about all the changes for that reason, just really stunting the growth of new business in our state. As people are kind of job-locked into their existing employment situations."

While Medica is imploring both Iowa and Congress to take action, the Iowa Insurance Commission sees it as the responsibly of the federal government to bring stability to individual marketplace. 

"Although individual state markets vary, I am in Washington (D.C.) along with other state insurance commissioners asking for action," says Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen via email. "Long-term, the individual health insurance market under the ACA was and still is unaffordable and unsustainable. Iowa needs congressional action as soon as possible."  

If nothing happens to salvage the Iowa exchange, Wood says that he or his wife, who is also an entrepreneur, might have to make a major lifestyle change.

"It's very possible that myself or my wife would have to potentially close down one of our businesses and go to work, so that we can provide coverage for our family," he says.  

People living Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties are also able to purchase individual healthcare polices through Gundersen, a Wisconsin-based insurer, and therefore would be less affected is Medica leaves. The company has until June 19 to decide if it will stay in Iowa.


Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.