Executives at WellPoint Inc. (NYSE:WLP) continue to believe that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges will bring the company new business.
Joseph Swedish, the health insurer’s new chief executive officer, said today during a conference call with securities analysts that the company feels good about its preparations for the new, Web-based health insurance supermarkets, which are supposed to start signing up customers Oct. 1.
“We have substantially completed our exchange-based product design and pricing development work,” Swedish said during the call, which WellPoint held to discuss its first-quarter earnings.
WellPoint has signed contracts with the providers who would serve the exchange plan enrollees, and it believes its brand-name strength and reasonable costs should help it achieve “meaningful growth” in the exchanges over time, Swedish said.
About half of the states look as if they will run or help run their exchanges, and about half look as if they will use the federal exchange program, Swedish said.
WellPoint operates as Anthem — a company that holds the Blue Cross license in some states and both the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licenses in others.
WellPoint hopes to compete in the exchanges in all of its “Blue markets,” “but obviously can’t fully commit until we know the rates and regulations,” Swedish said.
Swedish said he thought WellPoint operating profit margins on the exchanges would eventually be in the “low to mid single-digit range.”
Stephen Hemsley, president of UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH), said last week, during his own company’s earnings call, that the company “will be very selective in where we participate.” Hemsley said he did not expect the exchanges to be a significant factor in its 2014 commercial market outlook.