Healthcare stocks are slightly lower, with the NYSE Healthcare Sector Index declining about 0.1% while shares of healthcare companies in the S&P 500 are down less than 0.1% as a group.
In company news, UnitedHealth Group Inc. ( UNH ) is swinging between gains and losses, last trading 0.2% lower at $71.71 a share after the health insurer reportedly dropped thousands of doctors from its Medicare Advantage networks in recent weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Doctors in at least 10 states have received termination letters, the newspaper said, with UNH citing "significant changes and pressures in the health-care environment" for the moves.
The notices also tell doctors they can appeal within 30 days although that means many physicians and patients won't know for sure who is in or out of the UNH networks before the open-enrollment period to switch Medicare plans ends Dec. 7.
In other sector news,
(+) VRX, (+0.9%) Prices upsized $900 mln (from $850 mln) offering of 5.625% senior unsecured notes due 2021. Concurrent with the deal, Proceeds from the deal - plus cash on hand - will be used to redeem all $915 mln of its 6.5% senior notes due 2016.
(-) MRK, (-0.3%) Presents positive interim data from Phase Ib evaluation of its MK-3475 drug candidate as a monotherapy in patients with late-stage melanoma. Consolidating production at two Puerto Rico facilities next year as part of a global restructuring.
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