WellPoint said that its fourth-quarter net income fell as the prior-year period included a large gain related to a sale, but the company's adjusted results beat Wall Street expectations.
WellPoint profits better than expected
The largest publicly traded health insurer based on enrollment earned $548.8 million, or $1.40 per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31. That's down from $2.74 billion, or $5.95 per share, a year earlier.
WellPoint's performance in the final quarter of 2009 was fueled in part by the sale of its NextRx subsidiary to Express Scripts, which gave the company a $3.79 billion gain for that period.
Adjusted earnings during the most recent quarter rose to $1.33 per share from $1.16 per share. Operating revenue fell 4% to $14.42 billion from $15.06 billion.
Analysts forecast a smaller profit of $1.23 per share on $14.37 billion in revenue.
Medical enrollment surpassed 33.3 million members at quarter's end, down 1% from the year-ago period. The company operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states, including California, New York and Ohio.
The decline mainly came from the company's business outside of Blue Cross Blue Shield, which experienced a reduction of 516,000 members because of the transfer of UniCare individual and group business in Texas and Illinois to another Blue Cross & Blue Shield plan.
Rival UnitedHealth Group said earlier this week its fourth-quarter profit jumped 10% as a drop in health care use continued to help the insurer.
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