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Medicare insurer Centene expects big growth despite political turmoil

Anjalee Khemlani
Senior Reporter

The health sector is being battered by political pressure and soaring premiums, but Centene (CNC) — an insurer that focuses on government-regulated plans — is certain it can deliver growth despite the uncertainty.

The company is merging with another insurer in the space, WellCare (WGC), which will make the combined entity the fourth largest in the Medicare Advantage space. The private insurance market for Medicare-eligible individuals has been a focus for many of the largest U.S. insurance providers — as well as an opportunity for startups like Clover and Oscar, to boost competition.

Yet with surging health care costs sparking political backlash, Centene’s CEO, Michael Neidorff told Yahoo Finance he was confident in the near term.

“We do continue to see ourselves as being a double-digit growth company...for the next two, three years, maybe as far as five years,” he told “On the Move” on Thursday, even as he expressed some disappointment in areas where Centene has lagged.

“I’ve not been particularly pleased, I think we could have been stronger with Medicare than we have been,” Neidorff said. However, “WellCare has a really strong platform and a lot of capabilities there, and I think we are going to be able to take advantage of that,” he added.

FILE - This July 2, 2015, file photo shows the building housing the Centene Corporation headquarters in Clayton, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

While Medicare Advantage plans are funded and regulated by the federal government, there have been opportunities for insurers to profit. Yet a rash of questionable billing has prompted regulators to take a closer look at payouts — adding another layer of risk to the outlook.

When asked how Centene manages strategic planning amid political uncertainty, and ongoing legislative battles that could affect how health insurers operate, Neidorff was sanguine about how Centene navigates it.

“You make your decisions based on the facts as they are today,” he said.

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

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