Oldwick, N.J.-based A.M. Best Co. has withdrawn several of its rating classifications for a raft of health insurance companies, saying it can no longer justify the ratings based solely on publicly available data.

Specifically, Best said it would issue NR-5 (not formally followed) to the financial strength ratings (FSR) and an “nr” to the issuer credit ratings (ICR) of the companies. The 134 insurers dropped include many health maintenance organizations (HMO) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) plans such as Durham, N.C.-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Best says the move reflects the evolving marketplace, where health insurers are entering a period with a host of challenges, including the recession, the specter of health care reform and possible changes to reimbursement rates for Medicare Advantage.

“Competition remains intense as insurers navigate a commercial market with limited growth prospects amid consolidation of both plan offerings and employer groups,” A.M. Best said in a statement. “Further, health insurance companies face an uncertain economic environment, which may result in declining enrollment and investment-related issues for the industry.”

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