Centene still bullish on ACA exchanges despite legal challenges to the law 

Affordable Care Act highlighted
Centene is still fully invested in its ACA exchange business, despite legal challenges to the law, officials said. (Getty/Ellenmck)

Legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act aren’t deterring Centene from its exchange business, officials said on Tuesday. 

Centene Corporation’s ACA exchange enrollment grew by 52% to reach 1.5 million members in 2018, the insurer said during its quarterly earnings call, adding approximately 500,000 new enrollees.

Following a strong open enrollment for 2019, Centene has reached a national market share of nearly 20% in the ACA exchanges, it said. And a Texas legal ruling from December that determined the law is unconstitutional isn’t holding back growth estimations, Centene CEO Michael Neidorff said on the call—it's “business as usual.” 

“We’re not distracted by ACA legal headlines,” Neidorff said. “We agree with all the legal experts that it will be reversed.” 

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Centene reported about $16.6 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter and a total of about $60.1 billion for all of fiscal year 2018. The quarterly revenue represents a 29% increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2017, and Centene saw 24% growth in revenue year over year 

The company also reported a boost from the integration of New York health plan Fidelis and overall membership growth of 1.8 million to 14 million nationwide, an increase of 15% from 2017.

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Centene grew its ACA exchange footprint last year, entering the markets in four new states and growing its offerings in six others. Neidorff said Centene is focused on taking a “balanced” approached to the markets and it’s not seeing a significant challenge to its business in the states it serves. 

“From a competitive standpoint, we’re not seeing any activity that threatens us,” he said. “If anything, we like to see more people out there—it creates more noise and more activity. And in a competitive environment, we tend to do very well.” 

Jeff Schwaneke, Centene’s chief financial officer, echoed Neidorff on the call, saying the company is expecting stability in 2019. It’s planning for about $10 billion in revenue from ACA exchange enrollment with margins of between 5% and 10%, about on par with 2017, 2016 and 2015, he said.