Huge Obamacare Insurer Anthem Headed for the Exit?

Anthem Inc is likely the next big health care provider to exit from a large portion of its Obamacare individual insurance markets next year, Jefferies analysts said, nearly a week after Republican leaders pulled legislation to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system. Anthem currently insures more than 800,000 individual plan customers in 144 rating regions in 14 states.

Some Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives have discussed quickly reviving their Obamacare repeal efforts. Others have expressed a desire to move on to overhauling the tax code and funding infrastructure projects, saying the party hasn’t yet reached a consensus on health care.

In recent conversations with Jeffreries analysts, Anthem management referred to the statements about “surgical reductions, but currently seems to be leaning toward broader extraction,” the report said.

“Improvements such as eligibility verification, more rigid special enrollment periods, shortening of premium grace periods are steps in the right direction, but not enough,” the Jefferies analysts wrote of Anthem’s view.

Shares of the company were up 1.4 percent at $167.29 in late afternoon trading.

Anthem is one of the few health insurers that still sells plans under Obamacare. Humana Inc (HUM.N), Aetna Inc (AET.N) and UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) pulled out after reporting hundreds of millions of dollars of losses.

If that happens, millions of Obamacare customers and potential customers would be left in 2018 with even fewer choices of insurers than they have now.

“We continue to actively pursue policy changes that will help with market stabilization and achieve the common goal of making quality health care more affordable and accessible for all,” Anthem said in a statement.

Anthem currently insures more than 800,000 individual plan customers in 144 rating regions in 14 states.

Earlier this month, an analysis by Axios.com said, “An Anthem exit would cause arguably the most disruption nationwide.”

“Roughly 255,000 people across Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio would have no Obamacare insurers for 2018, and 560,000 people in eight states would have just one insurer,” the analysis by Axios.com said.

Anthem chief executive officer Joe Swedish had earlier said the company will decide where to offer Obamacare plans by the middle of the year. Anthem has to decide “whether or not we surgically extract ourselves from certain rating regions, or quite frankly even on a larger scale, depending on the stability of the marketplace,” he said in February.

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