WellPoint Health Networks and Aetna posted better-than-expected first-quarter profits, while WellChoice, the parent of Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said tax payments in its first quarter as an investor-owned company cut profits nearly 40%.
WellPoint, Thousand Oaks, Calif., reported a 36% increase in net income to $193.1 million, or $1.29 per share, as the company added members and controlled costs. WellPoint's enrollment rose 4.6% to 13.5 million members, making it the nation's second-largest health plan in terms of enrollment after UnitedHealth Group, Minneapolis.
Aetna, Hartford, Conn., surpassed analysts' expectations of 86 cents in earnings per share with net income of $330 million, or $2.12 per share, in the first quarter. That reversed a loss of $2.83 billion, or $19 per share, in the year-ago period.
Revenue fell 15% to $4.46 billion, as Aetna cut unprofitable accounts. With 13 million members, Aetna is the nation's fourth-largest health insurer; it was the largest two years ago. Medical cost inflation slowed, as members used fewer services or paid more for services out of pocket, Aetna said.
WellChoice, New York, said its net income was $47.7 million, or 57 cents per share, vs. earnings of $78.6 million in the first quarter of 2002. WellChoice became a for-profit in an initial public offering in November 2002. Membership grew 2% to 4.8 million.