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UnitedHealth exec says high-cost healthcare should be administered separately

Healthcare for the highest-cost customers who buy coverage on public exchanges should be administered separately, UnitedHealth Group Inc. President David Wichmann said.

Of the 10 million customers who get plans from exchanges, 800,000 to 1 million are people with complex conditions who drive premium values up by as much as 35%, Wichmann said at a Sanford C. Bernstein conference.

Taking those people out of the risk pool, providing them with high-quality care and managing their conditions with good doctors should bring premiums down in the marketplace. Low premiums would in turn eliminate the need for tax credits provided for people to buy coverage, he said.

UnitedHealth was one of the first large insurers to withdraw from the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, individual markets due to escalating costs, and the company has backed efforts to get rid of the ACA health insurance tax or repeal the law entirely. Wichmann reiterated his opposition to the insurers' fee during the conference.

"There's no reason to take a system that already costs too much and tax it further," he said.

The exchange system should be moved back to the private markets to be administered on a state-by-state basis. "Not only would we have lower premium, we would have greater number of products which would meet the needs of individual consumers," he said.