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A health insurer steps in to stop Tennessee’s Obamacare marketplace from exploding

Maybe the law isn’t falling apart quite yet.

Activists Protests Outside Of Trump Tower In Chicago Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee announced Tuesday that it will sell Obamacare coverage next year in the Knoxville area, ensuring that enrollees there will have at least one option on the marketplace in 2018.

The Knoxville area has been in precarious situation this year. Humana announced in January that it would quit selling coverage there (and across the country), leaving enrollees there with zero insurance plans selling on the marketplace in 2018.

This would mean that Obamacare enrollees would have nowhere to use the financial subsidies the government provides to make coverage more affordable.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee sent a letter to the state Tuesday, confirming that it would offer coverage in this area. While the insurance company has historically lost money in the Tennessee marketplace, it says that the financial situation improved this year:

As we discussed, BlueCross’s journey to get and keep people covered under this program has proven challenging, with three consecutive years of volatility and losses totaling more than $400 million. I’m pleased to report that, though still very early, our 2017 performance has improved due to a combination of better claims experience and a more sustainable rate structure based on the medical needs of the members we’re serving.

With this in mind, I want to confirm that BlueCross is willing to serve the Knoxville region in the 2018 individual Marketplace.

The insurance plan warned that the premiums may, however, be high in this area because of the health law’s uncertain future, including the possible “elimination of Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies (CSRs), the removal of the individual mandate and the collection of the health insurer tax.”

Blue Cross’s entry into the Tennessee market means there are currently no places in the country with zero insurance plans signed up to sell coverage in 2018. But there are areas at risk of such a development. Iowa, for example, has one insurance plan left in most of the state and executives there say they’re on the fence about whether to stay.

This takes away a key Republican talking point, one especially favored by President Donald Trump: that Obamacare will explode on its own. Tennessee, it turns out, isn’t exploding. It’s getting fixed.

Read more: I did a deep dive last week into how the Tennessee marketplace lost most of its insurance plans that helps provide some of the context around this new development.