UnitedHealth CEO: Should Have Stayed Out of Obamacare Longer

The biggest U.S. health insurer should have stayed out of Obamacare’s new individual markets longer, UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s chief executive officer said Tuesday, after the company said last month that it will take hundreds of millions of dollars in losses related to the business.

UnitedHealth said on Nov. 19 that it may quit selling coverage in the Affordable Care Act’s individual markets in 2017. The markets are a key mechanism in the law’s goal to cover about 10 million American’s next year, and UnitedHealth expanded its offerings for next year, after initially holding off when the markets started covering people in 2014.

“It was for us a bad decision,” UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley said at an investor meeting Tuesday in New York. “I take accountability for sitting out the exchange market in year 1 so we could in theory observe, learn and see how the market experience would develop. This was a prudent going in position. In retrospect, we should have stayed out longer.”