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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 1:00 am

ACA insurer warns not to cut cost-sharing payments

TOM MURPHY | Associated Press

One of the biggest insurers in the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces is warning the federal government that it must preserve cost-sharing payments for low-income customers to avoid hurting millions of people.

Centene Corp. said Tuesday that a better-than-expected performance in those individual insurance markets allowed it to beat Wall Street expectations in the second quarter and raise its forecast for 2017.

But Chairman and CEO Michael Neidorff, like other insurance executives, is worried about the fate of cost-sharing reduction payments that ease expenses like deductibles for people with low incomes. Money for those payments has made it into Congressional bills that aim to dismantle the Obama-era law, but the fate of that legislation is uncertain.

Centene covers more than 1 million people through the law's state-based health insurance exchanges, which let people shop for coverage and then buy a plan with help from an income-based tax credit. While big national carriers like UnitedHealth and Aetna have retreated from this market, Centene has switched to growth mode.

The St. Louis-based insurer plans to expand next year into exchanges in Nevada, Kansas and Missouri, with growth in its home state filling a void in 25 counties that had no exchange choices for shoppers.

Centene said it earned $254 million, or $1.44 per share, in the second quarter, as results adjusted to exclude one-time gains and costs totaled $1.59 per share.