Aetna, which used to be the nation's largest health insurer, will briefly slip down to the No. 4 spot at the close of the first quarter of this year, according comments made by Chairman and CEO Jack Rowe, M.D., at a conference with analysts Tuesday.
Rowe said Aetna ended 2002 with nearly 13.7 million members, putting it at No. 2 behind UnitedHealth Group, with 17.1 million members, and ahead of Cigna and WellPoint, which both reported 13.2 million members at the end of last year.
But according to a transcript of the conference, Rowe added that Aetna, which has intentionally shed millions of members to improve its finances, expects to have slightly more than 13 million members at the end of the first quarter of 2003. He said it would bounce back up to 13.2 million by the end of this year.
That means Aetna would briefly dip below Cigna and WellPoint's current membership figures and then come up dead even with those levels by the end of the year.
Of course, membership for its rivals could also change by the end of the year.
Aetna's downsizing strategy seems to be paying off, according to a fourth-quarter earnings report, also released yesterday. The company says it posted a net profit of $98.2 million, compared with a loss of $187.6 million a year ago.
But loss of members meant that revenue fell to $4.72 billion from $6.04 billion, the company adds.