Per the article, UHC is not a major player on the ACA exchanges, but they are one of the 4 big national health insurers (the others being Cigna, Aetna, and the Blues). So it’s not like this is some two-bit insurer which doesn’t know what they’re doing.
It goes without saying that this does not mean that the roof is falling in and that the exchanges will fail. But it’s an ominous sign.
As I’ve noted in other threads, there are risk-sharing measures in place for the first few years of the exchanges, and there is a school of thought which believes that once these are removed, the roof will indeed fall in. I would guess this possibility is a factor in UHC’s thinking.
And this could snowball. Because one thing that keeps rates lower than they otherwise would be in new markets is companies buying market share at the expense of current profits, thinking that they’ll recoup their money down the road when things stabilize. But if companies start thinking this is going to be a tough market at best, they’ll be reluctant to take an upfront hit in order to get their feet in this particular door.
But again, the jury is still out. Time will tell.