Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield will forgo participating on the public health insurance exchange in 2015, the Des Moines-based insurer announced this morning.


Known also as the federal marketplace, the online exchange at www.healthcare.gov is the only online store where individuals can receive a federal subsidy toward the purchase of an individual health insurance policy. 


Wellmark Executive Vice President Laura Jackson said her company considered a number of variables in deciding to again delay participation in the federal marketplace.

"We looked at factors like the probability of a state or regional-based exchange and the continued challenges with the current public exchange to name a few," she said in a release. "Wellmark will continue to offer health insurance through existing channels - licensed agents or direct from Wellmark - with plans to participate in the public exchange in 2016."

Wellmark also said it expects the majority of its individual policyholders will see rate increases of 5.9 percent or less for 2015, and that the majority of small group plan premiums will increase between 2 and 4 percent. 

If approved by the Iowa Insurance Division, the rate increases would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Wellmark officials said that rate increases will vary by plan, so members should wait for their individual renewal notice later this year to how the increases may affect them.


A year ago, Wellmark announced it would delay participation in the Marketplace until 2015, a decision it said was driven largely by concerns that its information technology system wouldn't be ready in time.


Jackson today noted that despite not being on the public marketplace in 2014, Wellmark sold more Affordable Care Act-compliant policies than any other carrier in the state.