Executives at WellPoint Inc. (NYSE:WLP) may not have much choice about whether to sound enthusiastic about the public health insurance exchange system — they’re selling plans through 14 this fall – but they seem to be genuinely happy to be in the qualified health plan (QHP) market.
WellPoint executives expressed careful, nonspecific, tentative feelings of relief today during a conference call with securities analysts.
The executives said they are pleased with how the company is doing, pleased with how the exchange QHPs are doing — and not too displeased about a drop in small-group health plan enrollment.
What WellPoint thinks about the exchange system is critical, because WellPoint is a big gorilla, or The Big Gorilla, in all of the states in which it has a Blue Cross plan, or a Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan.
Agents and brokers may sell for a WellPoint carrier, or they may sell against it, but they all feel the company shaking the ground.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the company’s third-quarter earnings call.
1. WellPoint isn’t giving many details about exchange performance, but it says it and its exchange plans are doing great.
The company as a whole is reporting $631 million in net income for the third quarter on $19 billion in revenue, compared with $656 million in net income on $18 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2013.
The company ended the quarter providing or administering medical coverage for 38 million people, or about 5.7 percent more people than it was covering a year earlier.
Individual commercial enrollment increased 5.9 percent, to 1.9 million.
Overall commercial group enrollment increased 4.7 percent, to 27 million.
Enrollment in local groups of all kinds rose 4.3 percent from a year earlier, to 15 million, but enrollment in small groups has fallen about 15 percent since January, to about 1.6 million.
WellPoint is covering 751,000 people through exchange QHPs.
2. WellPoint executives are happy with the company’s exchange plan enroll claims crystal ball.
Agents, brokers and others who would just as soon see the exchange QHPs disappear under a pile of catastrophic claims may not enjoy listening to the recording of the conference call.
Wayne DeVeydt, the WellPoint chief financial officer, acknowledged that QHP enrollee claims are higher than traditional plan enrollee claims.
“But, relative to our expectations,” DeVeydt said, “it has proven to be less than we expected.”