There's one state where Obamacare is 'very near collapse'

New troubles for Obamacare

Tennessee's Obamacare market is in serious trouble, according to the person who runs the state's exchanges.

Julie Mix McPeak, the Commissioner for Tennessee's Department of Commerce and Insurance, told Nashville's The Tennessean on Tuesday that increases in premium prices and the dwindling number of insurers in the state are causing serious stress in the state's Affordable Care Act exchanges.

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"I would characterize the exchange market in Tennessee as very near collapse... and that all of our efforts are really focused on making sure we have as many writers in the areas as possible, knowing that might be one," said McPeak in an interview with The Tennessean's Holly Fletcher.

"I'm doing everything I can to prevent a situation where that turns to zero."

Part of Tennessee have seen the number of insurers offering plans drop significantly, with four of the state's eight exchange rating regions having one or fewer choices for insurance companies according to an analysis from healthcare consulting firm Avalere.

McPeak is trying to avoid something similar to what is happening in Pinal County, Arizona. After health insurance giant Aetna decided to leave the county, it has been left with zero insurers offering plans on the county's ACA exchange. In Pinal County's case, many people who rely on subsidized Obamacare may be left without insurance entirely.

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2016 issues: Health, Obamacare opinions, Medicare, Abortion
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2016 issues: Health, Obamacare opinions, Medicare, Abortion
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, UNITED STATES - 2015/08/22: Assembly of some 150 anti-abortion protesters behind barricade in front of Planned Parenthood. A coalition of anti-abortion protesters protested on Mott Street in Manhattan in front of Planned Parenthood. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, UNITED STATES - 2015/08/22: Protester with Baby Doe sign in front of Planned Parenthood. A coalition of anti-abortion protesters protested on Mott Street in Manhattan in front of Planned Parenthood. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at a anti-abortion rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Planned Parenthood faces mounting criticism amid the release of videos by a pro-life group and demands to vote in the Senate to stop funding. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a Anti-abortion rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Planned Parenthood faces mounting criticism amid the release of videos by a pro-life group and demands to vote in the Senate to stop funding. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 22: Pro-choice protesters chant in front of the Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, the anniversary of the Roe v Wade abortion decision. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 5: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., testifies during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on 'ObamaCare: Why the Need for an Insurance Company Bailout?' on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 25: Affordable Care Act supporters hold up signs outside the Supreme Court as they wait for the court's decision on Obamacare on Thursday, June 25, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 25 - Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate as the opinion for health care is reported outside of the Supreme Court in Washington,Thursday June 25, 2015. The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the nationwide tax subsidies under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, in a ruling that preserves health insurance for millions of Americans. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
RICHMOND, CA - MARCH 31: Posters about Obamacare are posted on a window during a healthcare enrollment fair at the Bay Area Rescue Mission on March 31, 2014 in Richmond, California. SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) held the fair to help people sign up for free and low-cost health coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California on the final day before the sign-up deadline. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Like many insurers across the country, those offering plans in Tennessee are losing serious amounts of money on the exchanges, leading to significant premium increases for patients and substantial losses for insurers.

According to the Tennessean, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennesse (BCBST) — the only insurer to offer plans statewide — has lost roughly $500 million from the states' exchanges in the three years since it entered them.

Essentially, the people signing up for insurance in the exchanges like Tennessee have been sicker and more expensive to cover than health insurance companies predicted, leading to large losses.

To avoid these losses, many insurance companies have increased prices dramatically in the state, with BCBST requesting a 62% increase for premiums in 2017 after a 36.3% hike in 2016. Both "big five" insurers that do business in the state, Humana and Cigna, are also requesting premium increases of over 20% for next year.

While regulators told The Tennessean that they plan to use a number of tax breaks and other strategies to keep patients' monthly costs from skyrocketing in the state, the huge jumps in the requested headline premiums are hard to ignore.

Of note, requests must be approved by McPeak's office at the Department of Commerce and Insurance, so the numbers for 2017 are just projections.

While many states face challenges, based on the comments by McPeak, the situation seems to be dire in Tennessee.

Read the full breakdown of Tennessee's situation at The Tennessean»

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