United Health Care Insurance’s Battle with Covered California

by John Hansen

The CA Exchange Plays Hardball with United Health Care Insurance and Commissioner Calls It a Mistake

In 2013, United Health Care (UHC), America’s largest insurer, played it safe and withdrew from the California Exchange. So Covered California offered no California health plans from UHC in 2014. Later, the United Health Care Insurance Plan came back to Covered California asking to enter the Health Insurance Marketplace for the 2015 Open Enrollment.

Dave Jones, Commissioner of the California Department of Insurance said, “They should embrace them coming back in.” However, it seemed that top level officials at Covered California wanted to punish the United Health Care Insurance Plan for dropping out the first year. So they only let UHC enter the market in the least populated counties in the most remote areas.

“They were willing to do all of California,” says Dave Jones. “It was a mistake not to let them. I hope they’re still interested, but they might not be.”

Jones who said “I’m not shy” spoke very strongly against Covered California’s treatment of the United Health Care Insurance Plan. He added, “We need to not have a spirit of exclusivity. We don’t exclude someone because we’re mad they didn’t come in 2014.”

Similarly, Dave Jones attacked Covered California for their treatment of Health Net. In 2014, they asked to enlarge their coverage area for Health Net Covered California, but were told no by the California Exchange. However, ultimately they were allowed to expand.

The commissioner’s concern is that when California makes it difficult for carriers like the United Health Care Insurance Plan to thrive in the state, they ultimately decrease competition. This in turn hurts affordability and quality of care for California consumers. Jones pointed out that we have four main carriers and seven regional players offered through Covered California, but we need more.