Aetna became the latest health insurer to cast doubt upon its future in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges after it called off a planned expansion Tuesday and suggested it could abandon that market completely.

A departure by Aetna, the nations’ third-largest insurer, could further reduce the number of choices for customers and eventually push insurance prices higher. Competition by insurers is a key feature of the exchanges, designed to keep a lid on prices, but several insurers are abandoning them because they are losing enormous amounts of money.

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On Monday, Illinois citizens were jolted by a piercing pain in the wallet as federal officials unveiled proposed Obamacare insurance premium rates for 2017. Insurers plan to dial up rates as much as a heart-stopping 45 percent for those who buy plans on the Obamacare marketplace when open enrollment starts Nov. 1.

That means thousands of people will scramble for affordable insurance … and won’t find it.

Is this rate shock unforeseen? Not really. Rocketing Obamacare rate requests have become an annual rite of summer, as welcome as sunstroke.

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The latest rates for health insurance under Obamacare in New Hampshire range from a drop of less than a half-percent to nearly a 60 percent increase, depending on the insurer.

All insurers offering health plans in the exchange had to present their proposals by Monday for the year beginning Jan. 1.

The dominant health insurer, Anthem, had the lowest proposal — a decrease of four-tenths of 1 percent from the preferred provider organization for the “off exchange” population.

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A company that offers health insurance plans in New Hampshire under the Affordable Care Act is suing the federal government over a part of the health care law.

The lawsuit from Minuteman Health aims to block the current form of the federal Risk Adjustment program, which aims to stabilize the health care market by spreading the costs that come from covering sicker people among insurers with healthier clients.

CEO Tom Policelli says what’s actually happened is that health care co-ops like Minuteman pay millions to their larger competitors that offer more expensive plans.

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Health insurers have been taking a financial beating for the ages on ObamaCare, but Aetna was always more bullish than the rest of the industry—until now. The entitlement’s keenest corporate patron announced Tuesday that it is cancelling its ObamaCare expansion plans for 2017 and may withdraw altogether.

Aetna posted fabulous second-quarter earnings, though the exception is its Affordable Care Act line of business that the company expects will lose more than $300 million this year. Aetna runs ObamaCare plans in 15 states and planned to join another five exchanges.

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Aetna Inc., facing more than $300 million in losses from Affordable Care Act health plans this year, may exit Obamacare markets in some states as challenges to the health-care overhaul pile up.

While the health insurer has yet to leave any states in which it now sells Obamacare programs, Chief Executive Officer Mark Bertolini said Aetna is evaluating its participation by market and will start making decisions in coming weeks. The company, which covers 838,000 people through Obamacare, is halting a planned expansion of those offerings in new states for next year.

“We’ve got to be able to cover the costs associated with providing the care,” Bertolini said in an interview.

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Usually it’s a good thing that everything’s bigger in Texas, but that isn’t true when it comes to health-insurance premiums for Obamacare. Recent federal data show that Texas’ largest insurer on the Obamacare exchanges is seeking average premium increases of nearly 60 percent for 2017- among the highest hikes in the entire country.

As a result, at least 600,000 policyholders with Blue Cross Blue Shield may quickly find their insurance coverage is unaffordable.

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Banning resident Jim Bailey and his wife went in recently for their annual physicals. They came away with hundreds of dollars in charges for co-pays and tests.

Bailey, 78, told me that he feels duped.

“The Affordable Care Act dictates that all annual physicals be provided at no cost to the policyholders — no deductibles or co-pays,” he said. “But that wasn’t the case with us.”

Nor will it be the case with anyone else — even though many Americans believe otherwise.

“There’s nothing in the ACA that guarantees a free checkup,” said Bradley Herring, an associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s surprising how many people think it’s part of the law.”

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Insurers want to crank up the cost of health insurance premiums by as much as 45 percent for Illinois residents who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the most popular insurer on the state’s Obamacare exchange, is proposing increases ranging from 23 percent to 45 percent in premiums for its individual health-care plans, according to proposed 2017 premiums that were made public Monday. The insurer blamed the sought-after hikes mainly on changes in the costs of medical services.

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Two more health cooperatives have filed lawsuits against the Obama administration over a program in which insurers compensate each other for taking on sicker customers under the Affordable Care Act, following a similar lawsuit in June from another startup company.

New Mexico Health Connections and Minuteman Health of Massachusetts filed their cases on Friday afternoon, arguing the Obama administration mismanaged the program known as “risk adjustment” by creating an inaccurate formula that overly rewarded big insurers.

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