April 29, 2015 / 10:19 AM / 2 years ago

Health insurer Anthem's profit beats as Medicaid enrollments rise

The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

(Reuters) - Anthem Inc (ANTM.N), the second-largest U.S. health insurer, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by rise in memberships for government plans, particularly Medicaid.

The company, whose shares were untraded before the opening bell on Wednesday, said total medical enrollments rose 4.3 percent to about 38.5 million in the quarter ended March 31.

Indianapolis-based Anthem said it now expected 2015 medical memberships rise to between 38.2 million and 38.4 million, up from its previous estimate of 38 million to 38.2 million.

Anthem runs a large employer-based insurance business, but is also one of the biggest players on the individual exchanges created under the national healthcare reform law, or Obamacare.

It also provides plans for Medicare, the government’s insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, for lower-income families.

Medicaid memberships rose 25 percent to 5.6 million in the quarter. Medicare membership rose 3.4 percent to 1.4 million.

The company’s first-quarter net profit rose to $865.2 million, or $3.09 per share, from $701.0 million, or $2.40 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Anthem earned $3.14 per share, above the average analyst estimate of $2.67, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Total operating revenue rose about 7 percent to $18.85 billion, below the %19.32 billion analysts had expected.

The insurer, which also operates Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans in 14 states, said its benefit-expense ratio in the quarter was 80.2 percent, down from 82.7 a year earlier.

The ratio represents the percentage of premiums paid out in medical claims and is closely watched by investors.

Anthem said it now expected 2015 adjusted net income of more than $9.90 per share, up from its previous estimate of more than $9.70. Analysts on average expect earnings of $9.83 per share.

The company said in early February that hackers had breached its computer system containing data on up to 80 million people.

Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Ted Kerr

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