Centene picks up new members; 4Q profit up 11 pct

Centene Corp. said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profit climbed 11 percent as the health insurer picked up more members in all of its states.

The St. Louis company enrolled more than 27,000 people in Massachusetts alone during the fourth quarter and landed a contract late last year to provide Medicaid coverage in Mississippi.

Centene’s gains come at a time when other insurers are seeing their rolls drop as people lose jobs and health care benefits.

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The insurer said it earned $23.7 million, or 53 cents per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That was up from $21.4 million, or 49 cents per share, in the same quarter last year, when Centene took a charge of 4 cents per share for discontinued operations.

Centene said its Medicaid enrollment rose 23 percent to nearly 1.1 million people, and its total membership was 1.5 million, up from 1.2 million in the same quarter last year. [Read the full article]

Wellpoint(WLP Quote), one of the most profitable health insurers, has increased its rates and the California state insurance commissioner has launched an investigation. Profit margins for health insurers aren’t typically large. The average insurer spent 88% of its premiums, in the nine months to September, on medical expenses. This is before administration expenses tied to this care that averaged 10.5%. The average insurer, therefore, had a 1.56% profit margin through September, before investment income was factored in. Wellpoint, though, isn’t typical. Through September, for all of its insurance companies, it managed to keep medical expenses down to 83.3% of premiums and administration down to 9.3%. This gave it a 6.3% profit margin. Anthem Health Plans of Virginia reported a 15.1% margin on health care but even this wouldn’t exceed the 30% California maximum. Other groups, such as Aetna (AET Quote), have thinner margins. [Read the full article]

Bringing health and wellness programs directly to the workplace is the work of CIGNA Onsite Health, which has built an extensive suite of onsite capabilities as an integral part of the health management programs CIGNA (NYSE:CI – News) provides to employers and their workers. CIGNA today said it is expanding these onsite capabilities through the acquisition of Kronos Optimal Health Company, a Phoenix-based health and wellness company that specializes in lifestyle management programs, face-to-face coaching, biometric screenings and health education programs.

“Creating the right avenue for individuals to get involved in improving health means offering different ways they can do so, based on their own personal preference, whether that over the phone, online, or in person,” said Kurt Weimer, president, CIGNA Onsite Health. [Read the full article]

UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH – News) company, launched its Oncology Care Analysis (OCA) program. This patient-focused, integrated program uses a first-of-its-kind database that combines clinical and claims data to gauge the quality of cancer patient care based on approved treatment guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of 21 leading cancer centers.

UnitedHealthcare cancer registry includes clinical and claims data from more than 2,600 oncologists and 8,600 patients across the country with breast, colon or lung cancer. The powerful combination of cancer stage data and claims information creates a coordinated electronic medical record of a patient care and then compares that treatment regimen to existing NCCN Guidelines. [Read the full article]

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