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Will an Obama policy change squeeze Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations out of its key market?

Published Jun. 13, 2016

Shares in an 8-year-old Tampa insurance company that administers short-term medical plans dropped to an all-time low Monday following last week's proposed change in federal rules governing its business, as well as an analyst's downgrade.

Health Insurance Innovations, which went public in 2013 and now employs nearly 200, saw its shares top $15 early that year. But the stock started to droop in latter 2014 and hit a low of $4.25 last fall. After improving to $7.47 last month, the latest double whammy on Monday drove down Health Insurance Innovations' stock by 11.3 percent, closing at a record low of $4.03.

The company's latest trouble began last week when the Obama administration said it wants to limit short-term health policies that allowed healthier consumers to purchase 365-day plans as a cheaper substitute for plans offered by the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. A proposed rule setting a three-month limit that would go into effect in 2017 was issued Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A day later, Raymond James analyst Steven Schwartz downgraded the stock of Health Insurance Innovations to market perform from strong buy, prompting an additional 20 percent drop in shares. "We expect significant industry pushback and believe that an industry legal response will be likely if the proposal is adopted in its current form," Schwartz said.

In a response to the proposed federal rules, Health Insurance Innovations called the HHS change "unexpected" and questioned whether the federal agency has the authority to pursue such changes. Patrick McNamee, who was named CEO of Health Insurance Innovations last fall, said he believes his company offers a key product that allows people to have short-term health coverage that can span periods between open enrollment periods of the ACA.

"Short-term, limited insurance is very valuable to consumers who are uninsured during the 9-month gap period," he said.

Last month, McNamee was more bullish in remarks to analysts about his company's momentum. Revenues for the latest quarter grew 89 percent to $42.5 million while McNamee said he expects 2016 revenues to grow between 30 and 40 percent. Quarterly earnings jumped to $905,000 from $53,000 a year ago. "We're off to a great start in 2016," McNamee told analysts. "We're very optimistic about the future."

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

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