The year promises to be a profitable one for the managed-care industry, with PacifiCare Health Systems, Santa Ana, Calif., and Anthem, Indianapolis, becoming the latest health insurers to raise their earnings outlooks. PacifiCare, the nation's largest Medicare HMO, said it expects to report first-quarter earnings of at least $1.90 per share, more than twice its previous guidance, partly because of cost cutting and lower-than-anticipated utilization. The company also hiked its full-year earnings forecast to between $6 and $6.10 per share, from its prior estimate of between $4.25 and $4.35 per share. In 2002, PacifiCare earned 87 cents per share for the first quarter and $3.92 per share for the year, excluding charges and accounting changes.
Anthem, meanwhile, boosted its first-quarter earnings projection to $1.18 per share, from its prior forecast of between $1 and $1.05 per share, and raised its full-year earnings estimate to between $5 and $5.05 per share, from between $4.75 and $4.85 per share. The company cited lower-than-expected medical costs and increased membership. Anthem, which operates Blues Cross and Blue Shield plans in nine states, earned 93 cents per share in the first quarter of 2002 and $4.12 per share for the year. Both Anthem and PacifiCare plan to report their first-quarter 2003 results April 30. Yesterday, UnitedHealth Group, Minneapolis, posted a 37% jump in first-quarter net income to $403 million, or $1.29 per share, and raised its 2003 outlook for the second time this year, to $5.40 per share. -- by Laura B. Benko