Anthem likely to pull back from Obamacare markets in 2018: Jefferies

The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

(Reuters) - Anthem Inc ANTM.N is likely 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 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.

Anthem is leaning toward exiting a “high percentage” of the 144 rating regions in which it currently participates, Jefferies analysts said in a note on Thursday after talking to the health insurer.

Obamacare, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature legislation created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, has had a tough beginning.

The mix of sick and healthy customers has been worse than expected, and premium rates on the individual insurance market went up 25 percent this year.

The Republicans’ failure to repeal Obamacare, at least for now, means it remains federal law.

“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.

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

The company’s management notes that regulatory advocacy needs to progress significantly in a “month or so,” said analysts David Windley and David Styblo, raising their price target on the stock to $177 from $172.

Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel