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Cigna uncertain about health exchanges, mum on Anthem deal

Cigna Corp. President and CEO David Cordani described the individual insurance marketplace as "fragile at best" and added that the insurer will wait to see what steps the new administration will take to change the healthcare law before it determines the extent of its own participation in health insurance exchanges in 2018.

The insurer sold plans on health exchanges in the past couple of years "not expecting to make money but expecting to learn," Cordani said during a call to discuss fourth-quarter 2016 earnings. But the recent turn of events in Washington meant that the insurer would have to re-evaluate its participation "with a fresh set of eyes," he said, as the new administration is working to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and put in place a new healthcare regulation. The insurer will reach a decision by spring.

Other large insurers, such as Aetna Inc. and Anthem Inc., warned that they would either scale back their footprint or completely pull out of exchanges if the new measures fail to shore up the individual insurance marketplace.

Cigna is selling individual plans in seven states in 2017. While it expects its individual business to do slightly better this year, it won't turn profitable, Cordani said.

The insurer also awaits a court's ruling on its agreement to be acquired by Anthem in an antitrust case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. Anthem announced in January its election to extend the end date of deal closing to April 30, but Cigna in a regulatory filing said it would evaluate its options in accordance with the merger agreement.

Analysts asked during the call if the two parties are at odds over the extension of the deadline to close the deal.

"We believe [the language in the filing] is quite clear and appropriate from a government standpoint and I'd direct you back to that language," Cordani said.