Coventry Health Care, Bethesda, Md., said its profits climbed 73% in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2003 -- to $69.7 million, or 76 cents per share -- thanks to premium increases and membership gains. In the year-ago quarter, Coventry earned $40.4 million, or 45 cents per share. Revenue rose 29% to $1.2 billion, as the company raised commercial rates an average of 13.5% for fourth-quarter contract renewals. For all of 2003, net income grew 74% to $250.1 million, or $2.75 per share, from $145.6 million, or $1.58 per share, in 2002. Revenue rose 27% to $4.5 billion. Enrollment increased 17% to 2.4 million members.
In other managed-care news, Cigna Corp., Philadelphia, won federal court approval for a $540 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by physicians who claim they were systematically underpaid for services. Cigna agreed to spend $400 million to overhaul its claims processing, $70 million to reimburse doctors on claims up to 12 years old, $15 million to create a healthcare foundation and $55 million for attorneys' fees. Approving the settlement, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in Miami said he would issue a separate order on the allocation of attorneys' fees. The settlement ends Cigna's involvement in a class-action lawsuit against the nation's largest managed-care companies. Aetna reached a $470 million settlement with doctors in May 2003. The remaining defendants include Anthem, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Coventry Health Care, Health Net, Humana, PacifiCare Health Systems, UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint Health Networks. -- by Laura B. Benko