January 8, 2018 / 7:32 PM / a year ago

Centene says over 1.4 million sign up for Obamacare plans

Jan 8 (Reuters) - U.S. health insurer Centene Corp said on Monday more than 1.4 million people had paid for its insurance plans via the federal Obamacare marketplace as of Jan. 7.

"The growth in the exchange has been so dramatic ... We had planned on incremental growth, but not that much," Centene Chief Executive Michael Neidorff said, adding "We've had people working all weekend, playing catchup."

The enrollment number represents an increase of at least 400,000 from the third quarter ended Sept. 30 and over 200,000 since last year, Evercore ISI analyst Michael Newshel said in a note.

Newshel predicted Centene's announcement, made during a presentation at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, would get a mixed reaction as it was likely to boost the company's 2018 forecast but also further increase Centene's exposure to "the most volatile product segment" while others pull back.

While other insurers exited the individual insurance market last year amid concerns about the future of healthcare under U.S. President Donald Trump, Centene expanded operations and said it would offer plans in new states.

Last week, the Trump administration proposed a rule to allow Americans who are self-employed or work for small businesses to buy health insurance that does not comply with all Obamacare requirements in an effort to unwind the 2010 healthcare law. (Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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