Health Care

Harken Health pulls out of South Florida’s Obamacare market

Harken Health, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth, announced Friday the company reversed course and would not sell Obamacare plans in South Florida in 2017. Nearly 645,000 people in Miami and Fort Lauderdale had signed up for an Affordable Care Act plan as of Feb. 1, according to federal health officials. In this December 2014 photo, applicants line outside a store setup in the Mall of the Americas to sell ACA plans.
Harken Health, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth, announced Friday the company reversed course and would not sell Obamacare plans in South Florida in 2017. Nearly 645,000 people in Miami and Fort Lauderdale had signed up for an Affordable Care Act plan as of Feb. 1, according to federal health officials. In this December 2014 photo, applicants line outside a store setup in the Mall of the Americas to sell ACA plans. Gaston De Cardenas

South Florida’s Obamacare market just got smaller for consumers who buy their health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchange at healthcare.gov.

Harken Health Insurance Company, an independent subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, reversed course on Friday and announced that the insurer will not sell ACA plans in Miami and Fort Lauderdale for 2017.

Jeff Shoemate, chief marketing officer, issued a brief statement about Harken’s change of plans but would not take questions about the company’s decision.

“We have made a strategic decision to maintain a keen focus on our current markets of Atlanta and Chicago,” Shoemate said in the written statement. “Harken believes people in South Florida could benefit greatly from our innovative model, and we look forward to offering access to those services as part of future expansion.”

A Harken spokeswoman said more information may be forthcoming next week. The company had announced plans in May to open 12 primary-care clinics in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and assigning each new member a “health coach” who would closely follow the patient, including attending doctor appointments, ensuring medications and other needs.

Harken’s ACA plans launched this year in Chicago and Atlanta, where the company aims to expand the number of primary-care clinics. The insurer covers 35,000 lives in those two markets.

UnitedHealth, Harken’s chief investor, has reported significant losses on Obamacare coverage and plans to exit at least 22 of the 34 states where it now sells those plans.

It’s unclear why Harken reversed course for South Florida, which is one of the most competitive markets in the ACA exchange, with 11 health insurance companies filing requests to sell plans in 2017.

Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation is currently in the process of reviewing health insurance rate proposals for 2017. Humana has requested the highest premium increase among ACA plans in Florida with a 43 percent raise over the prior year, according to Rate Review.

Miami-Dade and Broward are the powerhouses of the ACA exchange — both in Florida and nationwide among the 38 states that use the federally run exchange. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 645,000 people in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale markets had signed up for ACA coverage as of Feb. 1.

Nearly 1.5 million people in Florida had signed up for a plan and paid their premiums as of March 31, according to HHS.

Daniel Chang: 305-376-2012, @dchangmiami

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