Tenet sees competitors picking up UnitedHealth exchange business

Trevor Fetter, CEO of Tenet Healthcare, speaks at the Reuters Health Summit in New York, May 7, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - Tenet Healthcare Corp THC.N, the third-largest U.S. for-profit hospital operator, expects other insurers to step in and absorb UnitedHealth Group Inc's UNH.N share of the exchange market when the largest U.S. health insurance provider exits that business, company executives said on Monday.

UnitedHealth, one of the biggest sellers of plans on the exchanges, last month said it would exit the Obamacare individual insurance market in most states next year, citing losses from the program.

Tenet’s hospitals have seen a boost in business from the influx of newly insured patients who bought coverage through the exchanges, created as part of President Barack Obama’s national healthcare law.

Daniel Waldmann, Tenet’s senior vice president of public affairs, downplayed the impact of UnitedHealth’s decision, saying insurers can be expected to make adjustments, as happened when the popular Medicare Advantage managed care plans for seniors were initially introduced.

“You are going to see that. There are others who will be looking to pick up that UnitedHealth business,” Waldmann told Reuters.

Chief Executive Trevor Fetter said Tenet has followed a deliberate strategy to ensure its hospitals are included as in-network choices by insurers on the exchanges, and that effort has generated strong admissions growth.

Dallas-based Tenet on Monday reported that admissions to its hospitals of patients insured through the exchanges climbed more than 27 percent in the first quarter compared with a year ago.

“It is important for us to do everything to make sure the exchanges are viable and successful, and that consumers perceive value and choice in the exchanges,” Fetter said in an interview.

Reporting by Susan Kelly in Chicago; Editing by Cynthia Osterman