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Cigna plans to sell through more health exchanges in 2017

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While several health insurers are cutting back on plans sold on public health insurance exchanges next year, Cigna Corp. hopes to rev up its exchange participation.

The Bloomfield, Connecticut-based health insurer has filed to sell policies in 2017 on exchanges established by the health care law in Chicago, Raleigh and Durham in North Carolina, and Richmond and northern Virginia, a company spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

Cigna sold plans on exchanges in seven states this year.

The announcement echoes comments made by the Cigna spokesman in April that Cigna planned to “selectively expand our public exchange presence into a few new geographies in 2017” because of “potential longer-term opportunity for profitable growth.”

Cigna's move comes just days after Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana Inc. announced it would stop offering plans on exchanges in 2017 in “certain states where we had a very limited presence” this year, a Humana spokesman said last week. Humana offered plans through exchanges in 15 states in 2016.

Humana also said it will stop offering off-exchange individual policies in nearly all markets in 2017.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. has also exited exchanges in nearly all states, citing high medical costs from exchange members. The insurer this month said it expects to lose $850 million on exchange policies in 2016.

The earnings of many health insurers have taken a beating from the public exchanges, which generally have been characterized by high-cost, sicker-than-average enrollees who consume a lot of medical services.

In the first few years of the exchanges, insurers did not have the data needed to adequately price health plans sold on the exchanges, leading to massive losses in some cases and causing health care co-ops established by the Affordable Care Act to close their doors. Only seven of the original 23 co-ops remain.