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Life Health > Health Insurance

Assurant confident about benefits unit sale

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Executives at Assurant Inc. (NYSE:AIZ) say they think they’ll find a good buyer for the Assurant Employee Benefits unit.

See also: Assurant puts health, benefits units up for sale

Alan Colberg, Assurant’s president, answered several questions about the benefits unit Wednesday during a conference call with securities analysts.

The benefits operations “do have really strong and unique capabilities, and we’ve been investing heavily in them over the past several years now,” Colberg said.

The unit, based in Kansas City, Mo., sells employer-paid group life, group disability, group dental and group vision insurance. The unit also sells voluntary, employee-paid products, such as dental insurance and critical illness insurance, and individual prepaid dental plans.

Assurant also has a mortgage insurance business, a personal property protection insurance business, and Assurant Health, a major medical insurance business.

The benefits unit’s voluntary benefits and dental insurance operations should be attractive to a company that’s more interested in the benefits market, Colberg said.

Assurant announced last week that it has brought in an investment bank to help it try to sell both the benefits unit and Assurant Health.

Executives said the company would get out of the major medical market in 2016, even if it is unable to sell Assurant Health. Company executives have talked in the past about their frustration with the effects of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ changes in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) programs and rules.

Some observers interpreted the announcement to mean that the company was thinking of shutting down the benefits unit as well as the health unit.

Chris Pagano, the chief financial officer, said the company’s processes for handling the health unit and the benefits unit are very different.

For the health unit, “We remain focused on mitigating losses,” Pagano said.

For the benefits unit, he said, “We are highly confident in a sale.”

Colberg said Assurant is not trying to sell the health and benefits businesses as a package. ”We believe the buyer universe is very different for those two businesses,” Colberg said.

Assurant as a whole is reporting $50 million in net income for the first quarter on $2.6 billion in revenue, compared with $137 million in net income on $2.4 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2014.

The benefits unit is reporting $10 million in net operating income for the latest quarter on $273 million in net earned premiums and other revenue, compared with $14 million in net operating income on $268 million in revenue for the year-earlier quarter.

The health unit is reporting an $84 million net operating loss on $626 million in revenue, compared with a $7.1 million net operating loss on $431 million in revenue for the year-earlier quarter.

See also: Assurant, eHealth get exchange boost

Individual enrollment increased to 838,000, from 783,000, and total major medical enrollment increased to 981,000, from 904,000.

Revenue per enrollee increased 33 percent, to about $621 per enrollee, but benefits increased about 80 percent, to about $616 per enrollee.

In disclosures about participation in the PPACA “three R’s” risk-management programs, Assurant said it expects to pay $2.3 million in PPACA reinsurance program contributions for the first quarter and hopes to get $18 million in reinsurance recovery money.

See also: Assurant hopes to get $140 million in PPACA ’3 R’s’ money

The company estimates it will pay $50 million in PPACA risk-adjustment program premiums for the first quarter and that, as of March 31, 2015, it was in a position to receive $171 million in risk-adjustment payments.

The company believes it could be in a position to recover money from the PPACA risk corridors program, which is supposed to help PPACA public exchange plan issuers with poor underwriting results, but it says it has not recorded a recoverable for the program because the ability of HHS to make payments under the program are uncertain.


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