Anthem to sell Obamacare health plans in Virginia counties that don't offer them

FILE PHOTO: The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. health insurer Anthem Inc ANTM.N said on Friday it plans to sell Obamacare health plans in 68 cities and counties in Virginia next year, covering the only remaining U.S. counties that are currently without insurers offering the plans.

Anthem said last month it was exiting the Obamacare market in the state, but reconsidered the move after no other insurer stepped up to cover most of Virginia’s counties.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said earlier this week that 63 counties nationwide could be “bare counties,” with no insurers selling the Obamacare plans. It said that 1,472 counties could have only one insurer in 2018.

Insurers such as UnitedHealth Group Inc UNH.N, Aetna Inc AET.N and Humana Inc HUM.N have exited most of the states where they sold Obamacare plans. They cited uncertainty over the healthcare legislation and whether the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will maintain subsidies that keep costs down.

But other insurers, like Centene Corp CNC.N, have filled those gaps, expanding into new counties that had lost their coverage options.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Virginia’s insurance regulator said the state was in serious negotiations to bring in an insurer to cover its bare counties.

Anthem has said that it is still working with some state regulators on its market participation for next year.

Reporting by Michael Erman and Caroline Humer; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bernadette Baum