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Humana to sharply curtail individual offerings

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In the wake of the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit to block the proposed mergers of four of the five largest health insurers in the nation, Humana Inc. said Thursday that it will greatly reduce the plans it offers through public health insurance exchanges and stop offering coverage in “substantially” all other individual markets next year.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based insurer also said in a statement that it would stop selling coverage through public health insurance exchanges in “a number of geographies for 2017.” The health insurer said “individual business remains very challenging.”

With the change, Humana said its 2017 “presence for its individual offerings is expected to cover no more than 156 counties across 11 states, down from 1,351 counties across 19 states in 2016.”

Humana also said it now expects premiums for policies that comply with the health care reform law to drop from this year's projected $3.4 billion to $750 million to $1 billion for next year.

Humana sold health coverage through public exchanges in 15 states this year.

The move came shortly after the Justice Department's announcement that it had sued to block Humana's $37 billion merger with Aetna Inc., as well as the $54 billion merger of Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp.

Humana did not immediately respond to requests for comment.