UnitedHealth (UNH) - Get Report was downgraded to hold from buy at Jefferies, where analyst David Windley said that "the primary poison in the punch bowl, political risk, won't likely abate for at least another nine months."
He carved his price target on the Minnetonka, Minn., health-care provider to $235 a share from $300. The stock was up 0.36% to $222.89 in trading Thursday.
The political risks include a federal judge in Texas last December deciding that the Affordable Care Act requirement that people buy healthcare coverage was unconstitutional, rendering the whole program invalid; Medicare-for-all headlines in the first quarter; Sen. Elizabeth Warren's rise in the polls against Joe Biden in the race for the presidency, and "sloppy" medical-loss ratios in the second quartr, Windley wrote in a report Thursday.
A medical-loss ratio reflects the proportion of premiums customers pay that the managed-care organizations use for clinical services and quality improvement, as opposed to administrative costs like salaries, overhead and marketing, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Windley also flagged that on the commercial side of UnitedHealth's business, Anthem's (ANTM) - Get Report strategy to build market share is showing traction and could come at UNH's expense since the two companies' geographies overlap.
The analyst affirmed buy ratings on Anthem, Centene (CNC) - Get Report , Cigna (CI) - Get Report , Humana (HUM) - Get Report and Molina Healthcare (MOH) - Get Report . He now has hold ratings on United Health and WellCare (WCG) - Get Report .
Windley reduced his price targets on all the managed-care organizations in his group: Anthem to $299 from $365, Centene to $53 from $76, Cigna to $203 from $233, Humana to $322 from $352, Molina to $133 from $173 and WellCare to $264 from $302.