Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, the area’s largest healthcare insurance provider, will return to the Affordable Care Act marketplace next year after leaving it in 2018.

The insurer lost more than $100 million on its exchange plans from 2014 to 2017, calling the losses “unsustainable” when it announced in May 2017 that it was dropping out of the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare.

Blue KC had struggled to make more money on the exchange than it paid in claims. But the marketplace is more stable in 2020 and there is new need in the scores of people who have lost their jobs and health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, said company officials who announced the comeback on Tuesday.

When the company left, “we really felt like the level of uncertainty and the lack of clarity in that market was just really at an all-time high,” said Jenny Housley, Blue KC senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “And it just made it really difficult for us to plan. So for us, then, given the losses, it made sense to exit.

“We promised … to reassess that decision every year. So we never stopped looking at it. We didn’t want to leave the market. We just had to make a very difficult decision. So we reassessed every year, as promised, and that was a continual process as part of our business operations every year.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve seen premiums in the ACA market stabilize, seem to be at some pretty sustainable levels. So we felt like it was becoming more of an option for us to reconsider entry back into the market.”

The Kansas City region had 87,500 people unemployed in July, compared to 126,000 in April, the highest month of unemployment since the