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Centene warns on Obamacare subsidy cuts, shares dive
October 24, 2017 / 10:12 AM / a month ago

Centene warns on Obamacare subsidy cuts, shares dive

(Reuters) - Centene Corp said on Tuesday that White House moves to cut Obamacare subsidies would knock 7-12 cents per share off the health insurer’s fourth-quarter earnings, sending its shares as much as 8 percent lower.

Many larger insurers have already left the markets created by former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and Centene is the first insurer to put a figure on the actual costs to its business from attempts to gut the program.

With the fate of the subsidies hanging in the balance, the company reported better-than-expected third quarter profits on Tuesday due to strength in its business providing insurance under Obamacare.

A U.S. judge on Monday appeared skeptical toward a request from several states that want him to order the Trump administration to continue payments to health insurers under Obamacare.

Trump earlier this month terminated the payments, which help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income Americans but has alternately supported, and dismissed, an effort by Republican and Democratic senators that would reinstate the subsidies for two years.

Chief Executive Michael Neidorff told a conference call with analysts that Centene has filed health plans for 2018 in all its exchange markets on the assumption there would be no payments.

“We fully recognize the possibility that cost-sharing reductions, CSRs, might not continue to be funded,” he said.

Analysts from broker Cantor Fitzgerald said the potential fourth-quarter impact for the company should not be extrapolated to 2018 as a whole, especially as many individuals will receive higher tax credit subsidies.

They and other analysts argued that the almost $5 fall in the company’s share price on the estimates was overdone. By midday in New York they were trading 3.8 percent lower at $94.23.

Large health insurers such as UnitedHealth Group Inc, Aetna Inc and Humana Inc have pulled out of Obamacare plans in most states.

Sarah James, an analyst at brokerage Piper Jaffray, said Centene seemed to be moving full steam ahead on its Obamacare insurance business, increasing marketing and expansion costs.

Centene said net earnings attributable to the company in the third quarter rose nearly 40 percent to $205 million, or $1.16 per share.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.35 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of $1.25, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Total revenue rose nearly 10 percent to $11.9 billion. Analysts had expected revenue of $11.78 billion.

Centene’s health benefits ratio, or the amount it spends on medical claims compared with its income from premiums, came in at 88 percent, compared with 87 percent a year earlier.

The company said it expects 2017 revenue in the range of $47.4 billion to $48.2 billion, up from its previous forecast of $46.4 billion to $47.2 billion.

Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Patrick Graham

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