Aetna Profits Beat Expectations On Higher Premiums, Lower Medical Costs

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Aetna beat analysts’ expectations with third-quarter earnings that benefited from higher premiums and lower medical costs.

“Our emerging businesses strategy continues to see positive results from collaboration with providers, including lower costs, higher care quality and added membership for our core businesses,” said Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini.

Net income was $499.2 million for the three-month period ending Sept. 30, or $1.47 per share, compare with $490.4, or $1.30 per share, during the same period a year ago. The net income includes a 7-cent-per-share loss to get rid of long-term debt and 4 cents per share on transaction costs related to acquiring Coventry Health Care Inc.

Aetna announced in August its plans to acquire Coventry Health Care of Bethesda, Md., for $5.6 billion to position the company for growth in Medicare and Medicaid. Aetna will take on Coventry’s debt for a total transaction cost of $7.3 billion.

Operating earnings were $523.2 million, or $1.55 per share, compared with $528.4 million, or $1.40 per share, during the same period in 2011. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting $1.34 per share.

Revenue was up 6 percent to $8.9 billion from $8.4 billion, driven partly by membership which grew by 149,000 to 18.2 million.

Health insurers are required by the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare, to spend a minimum amount of premium revenue on medical expenses for customers: 85 cents of each premium dollar in large-group plans and 80 cents for small-group and individual plans.

The percentage of medical expenses divided by premium revenue is called the medical-cost ratio. Aetna had a third-quarter medical-loss ratio of 79.6 percent on all of its commercial accounts, up from 77.8 percent last year.

Aetna’s workforce in Connecticut declined from about 6,700 as of June 30 to about 6,650 as of Sept. 30. The company had more employees overall, increasing from 34,800 as of June 30 to 35,050 as of Sept. 30.

Goldman Sachs & Co. analysts Matthew Borsch and Sam Wass said, “As expected, favorable healthcare cost trends boosted results for Aetna, which is consistent with (UnitedHealthcare’s third quarter earnings) last week and also relatively weak volume figures from many of the (health care) product and provider companies reporting 3Q so far.”

The Hartford-based health insurer’s shares were up 36 cents to $44.31 in afternoon trading.

About Matthew Sturdevant

Full-time staff journalist at The Hartford Courant and magazine freelancer with a master's degree in writing from Dartmouth. My work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Taiwan News, The Baltimore Sun and many other news sources. My blog has been referenced by Politico.com, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Georgetown Law Library and a number of organizations in healthcare and business. Sturdevant’s blog is "a well-written wealth of ideas," said The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, (businessjournalism.org, May 18, 2011). I have experience writing for newspapers, magazines, Web sites and blogs as well as shooting and editing video. I made regular appearances on news-talk radio and on the NBC affiliate station in Corpus Christi, Texas. I made occasional appearances on the Fox affiliate in Connecticut promoting Hartford Courant articles.

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3 thoughts on “Aetna Profits Beat Expectations On Higher Premiums, Lower Medical Costs

  1. Ken Krayeske

    In English, this means Aetna profited by charging people more for health care services that it refused to deliver. If you had any doubts, the rosy approval from an analyst at Goldman Sachs (aka the giant vampire squid) should confirm that companies continue to make money from denying treatment. Everything else is just a euphemism protecting for-profit healthcare/vulture capitalism.

  2. gerald zuckier

    “Aetna had a third-quarter medical-loss ratio of 79.6 percent on all of its commercial accounts, up from 77.8 percent last year.”

    i.e., Aetna is paying a larger percentage of the premiums in actual medical expenses this year, and is spending a smaller percentage on overhead, administration, and profit.

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