NU Online News Service, July 23, 2003, 6:06 p.m. EDT – WellPoint Health Networks Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif., says efficiency and “pricing discipline” helped it increase profits during the second quarter even though many of its group health customers were struggling.

The company is reporting $224 million in net income for the latest quarter on $4.9 billion in revenue, up from $171 million in net income on $4.3 billion in revenue for the second quarter of 2002.

The company ended the quarter providing or administering medical insurance for 13.4 million people, up from 13 million people a year earlier.

Average premium revenue per insured member increased 10%, to $561.

But executives at WellPoint echoed comments by executives at UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., another big health insurer, that increases in financial performance came about in spite of continuing employer weakness.

Medical membership was soft during the second quarter, in part because of rate increases but in part “because of membership reductions in existing accounts related to the soft economy,” WellPoint says.

WellPoint, the parent company of Blue Cross of California, has agreed to acquire Cobalt Corp., Milwaukee, the parent company of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Wisconsin.

Cobalt is reporting $16 million in net income for the second quarter on $417 million in revenue, compared with $23 million in net income on $383 million in revenue for the second quarter of 2002.