Obamacare ‘going to drive the little guys out’

Obamacare continues to work its wonders on the insurance market. The latest from the New York Times:

The Principal Financial Group announced on Thursday that it planned to stop selling health insurance, another sign of upheaval emerging among insurers as the new federal health law starts to take effect.

The company, based in Iowa, provides coverage to about 840,000 people who receive their insurance through an employer.

Principal’s decision closely tracks moves by other insurers that have indicated in recent weeks that they plan to drop out of certain segments of the market, like the business of selling child-only policies. State regulators say some insurance companies are already threatening to leave particular markets because of the new law. And some regulators in states like Maine and Iowa have asked the Obama administration to give insurers more time to comply with some of the new rules.

This is a prime example of Obamacare’s corporatism:

In the case of Principal Financial, UnitedHealth Group’s insurance plans have agreed to offer coverage to Principal’s customers. “They are clearly going to be a long-term player in this market,” Mr. Houston said.

More insurers are likely to follow Principal’s lead, especially as they try to meet the new rules that require plans to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar they collect in premiums on the welfare of their customers. Many of the big insurers have been lobbying federal officials to forestall or drastically alter those rules.

“It’s just going to drive the little guys out,” said Robert Laszewski, a health policy consultant in Alexandria, Va. Smaller players like Principal in states like Iowa, Missouri and elsewhere will not be able to compete because they do not have the resources and economies of scale of players like UnitedHealth, which is among the nation’s largest health insurers.

Mr. Laszewski is worried that the ensuing concentration is likely to lead to higher prices because large players will no longer face the competition from the smaller plans. “It’s just the UnitedHealthcare full employment act,” he said.

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