(Reuters) – U.S. health insurers said on Friday they feared President Barack Obama had set a new precedent by making them responsible for providing free birth control to employees of religious groups as he sought to defuse an election-year landmine.
Obama on Friday announced the policy shift in an effort to accommodate religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, whose leaders are outraged by a new rule that would have required them to offer free contraceptive coverage to employees.
(Reuters) – U.S. health regulators issued recommendations to manufacturers to ensure the safe production of the blood-clot prevention drug heparin, four years after a contamination involving the widely used product set off concerns about the global pharmaceutical supply chain.
The draft guidance, posted on the website of the Food and Drug Administration, is designed to help manufacturers of active ingredients, finished products and others better control heparin to avoid contamination.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – After beating the market in 2011, healthcare stocks may struggle for a repeat performance this year as cash-strapped Americans keep putting off use of medical services and investors seek out faster growth stocks as the economy improves.
So far this year, healthcare has underperformed the broader market: The Standard and Poor’s Healthcare index is up about 4 percent compared to a 7 percent increase for the S&P 500 index .SPX.
Feb 6 (Reuters) – Humana Inc reported a
quarterly profit that met analyst estimates, but the health
insurer failed to raise its full-year forecast up to Wall
Street’s target and its shares fell 5.4 percent.
Shares of the large provider of Medicare plans for seniors
have soared in the past year as Wall Street grows more bullish
on the industry’s opportunities in Medicare. After Monday’s
results, some investors may have been selling to lock in
profits, said Les Funtleyder, a portfolio manager with Miller
Feb 2 (Reuters) – Insurer Cigna Corp (CI.N: Quote, Profile, Research) posted a
lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, hurt by weaker
results in its disability and life coverage business and
disappointing earnings in its international plans, and forecast
2012 earnings below Wall Street’s target.
The company, one of the largest U.S. health insurers, also
said on Thursday its outlook for the year includes an expected
rise in use of healthcare services among its members. Shares
fell 3.7 percent in premarket trading.
(Reuters) – Health insurer Aetna (AET.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted a sharply higher quarterly profit in line with Wall Street’s target as its members’ low use of health services kept claim costs down.
The No. 3 U.S. health insurer on Wednesday also backed its 2012 profit forecast.
By Lewis Krauskopf and Ransdell Pierson
(Reuters) – Competition from low-cost generic drugs squeezed quarterly profits at Pfizer Inc (PFE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Eli Lilly & Co (LLY.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) but the drugmakers were able to somewhat weather those declines with help from other medicines.
Both Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, and Lilly topped Wall Street’s dim profit expectations. Lilly also said its closely watched experimental Alzheimer’s treatment was given a green light for further study.
(Reuters) – WellPoint Inc (WLP.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted sharply lower fourth-quarter earnings that missed analysts’ estimates, hurt by high medical claims for its Medicare plans for the elderly, and issued a 2012 profit forecast that could fall short of Wall Street’s target.
Shares of the No. 2 U.S. health insurer by market value dropped more than 6 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday.
NEW YORK/PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – As healthcare mergers go, this one is unique: Express Scripts Inc (ESRX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) will not find a target in the pharmacy benefit industry anywhere near as large as Medco Health Solutions Inc (MHS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), while Medco realistically has little shot at wooing a suitor other than its chief rival.
So, if Express Scripts’ $29 billion bid for Medco is blocked by U.S. antitrust regulators, Wall Street expects the pharmacy benefit management companies will avoid a second try at a massive deal.
By Lewis Krauskopf
(Reuters) – Insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N: Quote, Profile, Research) stuck to a forecast for 2012 that says profits may fall, citing expectations for a rise in Americans’ use of medical services that could drive up its claim costs.
Shares of UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer by market value, fell as much as 4.2 percent after investors had hoped it would raise its forecast. The profit view overshadowed the company’s better-than-expected fourth-quarter results and pushed shares in the insurance sector lower on Thursday.