The biggest health insurer in the country announced Thursday it could leave ObamaCare in 2017. The Hill calls the announcement a "shock ... that could ripple through the marketplace," and the AP notes it could have an impact on policies during the presidential election season. In a statement to shareholders, UnitedHealth Group claims its Affordable Care Act business hasn't met financial expectations while lowering its projected fourth-quarter earnings by $425 million. "We cannot sustain these losses," says CEO Stephen Hemsley. "We can't really subsidize a marketplace that doesn't appear at the moment to be sustaining itself." This is quite the turnaround, as executives in recent weeks had expressed optimism in ObamaCare policies and planned for their expansion, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Hemsley says the number of Affordable Care Act enrollees hasn't been growing fast enough while current enrollees are using more medical services, leading to trouble, the Tribune reports. UnitedHealth has approximately 550,000 people—slightly more than 1% of its total customers—enrolled in Affordable Care Act plans. "Participation in exchanges is not essential to our overall benefit offerings, but we remain hopeful these markets will eventually evolve into a viable coverage category for Americans," Hemsley says. According to the Hill, a number co-op insurers have gone under in recent weeks for similar reasons, leading to additional criticisms of ObamaCare. But the AP reports a number of large ensurers are still optimistic about the financial prospects of the Affordable Care Act and say it's much too early to give up on it. (Read more ObamaCare stories.)