Top health insurers profit surge 29 percent to $6 billion

That’s not to say that the big insurers are not worried about the Obamacare market. Centene and Anthem are the largest national insurers on the exchanges, and both are still planning to offer plans next year, as is Cigna.

With 2018 open enrollment slated to begin in less than three months, large and small insurers are sweating whether the Trump administration will continue to pay cost-reduction subsidies for low-income enrollees and whether the health insurance tax will be reinstated next year. They are also watching to see whether a proposed bipartisan short-term stabilization plan floated by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander will gain support when Congress returns from its August recess.

Yet, even before the ACA, large insurers have had a tougher time with the individual market than regional players.

“This is a market they’ve never been able to break into very well,” explained Rice, of UBS. “They’ve found it really tough to find the right model.”

Centene is among the few large insurers that is starting to manage its exchanges plans profitably. Some Blue Cross insurers are also starting to see cost trends on the exchanges stabilize, after raising rates to account for the older, sicker risk pool in the last year.

The industry argues that with more permanent reinsurance funding to offset losses on the most expensive consumers, similar to the Medicare program, the individual exchanges could find their footing, and consumers could begin to see better pricing.

But, it is a work in progress,” said Banerjee.

And for now, most large insurers are finding it pays to wait it out, when it comes to Obamacare.

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