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GOP Obamacare retreat will hit insurers on the tax front

For health insurers, the biggest fallout from the GOP's retreat from health reform will be the scheduled return of the Obamacare health insurance fee next year, after a one-year suspension.

UnitedHealth executives called it the chief drag on their results next year.

"The return of the insurance fee will be the single largest headwind in 2018," said Stephen Hemsley, UnitedHealth CEO, on the company's earnings conference call, though he added that the company has included the tax in its rate submissions for next year.

The tax affects all private health insurance plans, including exchange plans, employer coverage and Medicare Advantage plans. Insurers have argued that it has contributed to higher insurance rates under Obamacare.

"Despite the return of the tax and program funding pressures at large, we do intend to keep our benefit offerings as stable as possible," he said.

UnitedHealth's shares rose on the day, after the insurance giant reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings, and medical cost controls were boosted by its exit from the Obamacare...