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Trump pulls the plug on ACA payments; Wisconsin health premiums to rise 36%

President Donald Trump's administration will end payments made under the Affordable Care Act that help eligible low- and moderate-income Americans cover their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and doctor visits, the White House confirmed. The president also signed an executive order aimed at expanding the use of and lifting restrictions on association health plans, short-term medical insurance and health reimbursement accounts.

Trump's decision to scrap the ACA subsidies triggered backlash from many patients, doctors, hospital executives and state insurance regulators who feared the changes could increase costs for sick people and boost "bare-bones insurance" sales, The New York Times reported. Some health insurers also raised concerns that the move could destabilize the market by causing younger and healthier people to leave the exchanges, according to the report.

Trump privately told at least one lawmaker that he is under pressure to stop the cost-sharing reduction payments since they are the subject of a lawsuit, but he also added that he may continue the payments if a bipartisan deal is reached on healthcare, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing "people familiar with the matter on Capitol Hill and in the healthcare industry." The newspaper also said that a final deal on the bipartisan talks was nearing.

Another piece in the Journal points out the mixed impact of Trump's executive order. Health insurers offering ACA plans in 2018, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies, and Medicaid-focused insurers like Centene Corp. and Molina Healthcare Inc. could lose healthy ACA enrollees to cheaper, less-comprehensive plans as a result of the order. On the other hand, the order is expected to benefit companies like UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Health Insurance Innovations Inc. that sell short-term insurance plans by helping boost the sales of such plans.

Premiums for health insurance plans offered on Wisconsin's ACA exchange will rise an average of 36% in 2018, according to a press release issued by the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

In California, Anthem Blue Cross agreed to scale back two planned rate hikes for 2018 after state regulators challenged the insurer's forecast of medical spending, Kaiser Health News reported.

More insurers disclosed losses from recent catastrophes. Everest Re Group Ltd. expects to incur pretax catastrophe losses, net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums, of $1.2 billion, with a net economic impact of $900 million after tax, in the third quarter. The estimate includes losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and from the earthquakes in Mexico.

AXIS Capital Holdings Ltd. provided a preliminary estimate of the total net financial impact from third-quarter catastrophe losses of $578 million, net of tax and estimated recoveries from reinsurance and retrocessional covers and including the impact of estimated reinstatement premiums.

Arch Capital Group Ltd. expects a preliminary negative impact from catastrophes to third-quarter results of $285 million to $345 million after tax, net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums.

Property Claim Services provided an initial estimate for Hurricane Maria claims of $21.89 billion for U.S. territories, The Insurance Insider reported.

Economic losses from the recent Northern California wildfires could exceed $1 billion, Insurance Journal reported, citing Tom Jeffery, a senior hazard scientist at CoreLogic.

The class B tranche of Southern Oak Insurance Co.-sponsored Oak Leaf Re Ltd. series 2017-1 catastrophe bond is now set to pay out in full to the insurer, after its losses from Hurricane Irma triggered the cat bond, Artemis reported.

Brown & Brown Inc. declared a quarterly cash dividend of 15 cents per share, up 11.1% from the previous payout of 13.5 cents.

In deal news, Kingsway Financial Services Inc. completed the acquisition of Chantilly, Va.-based Professional Warranty Services Corp., a provider of home warranty products and administration services to homebuilders and homeowners in the U.S.

In capital offerings, Tiptree Inc. unit Fortegra Financial Corp. priced its privately placed offering of $125 million of 8.50% fixed-rate resetting junior subordinated notes due 2057.

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. filed a preliminary short-form base shelf prospectus related to the sale of up to C$8 billion in various securities from time to time.

In people news, CareSource President and CEO Pamela Morris will retire in May 2018, the Dayton (Ohio) Business Journal reported.

Property and casualty insurers saw little fluctuation in their share prices during the week that many disclosed estimated third-quarter catastrophe losses. For the week ending Oct. 12, the SNL Insurance Index fell 0.71% to 981.88, while the S&P 500 rose 0.06% to 2,550.93.

Featured news

Trump dumps ACA subsidies; UK recommends Bristol-Myers' Opdivo: Bayer AG is selling selected crop science businesses to German chemicals company BASF SE for €5.9 billion. The transaction is part of asset sales required by regulators to satisfy competition concerns on Bayer's planned $66 billion takeover of agricultural company Monsanto Co.

Financial news in other parts of the world

Asia-Pacific: US urges World Bank to inspect China lending; 3 Iranian banks eye India branches

Europe: HSBC gets new CEO; 3 global banks settle LIBOR case; ASR issues CoCos

Middle East & Africa: World Bank cuts SSA growth outlook; Bank Muscat's 9-month profit drops 4.9%

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 0.06% to 28,476.43, and the Nikkei 225 increased 0.96% to 21,155.18.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.29% to 7,543.45, while the Euronext 100 was up 0.17% to 1,049.39.

On the macro front

The consumer price index, the retail sales report, the business inventories report, the consumer sentiment report, the Treasury budget and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count report are due out today.