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WellPoint (WLP)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 26, 2011 8:30 am ET


Ken Goulet - Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Business Unit, President of Commercial Business Unit and Executive Vice President

Michael Kleinman - Staff Vice President of Investor Relations

Brian Sassi - Executive Vice President, Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Business Unit and President of Consumer Business Unit

Angela Braly - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee

Wayne Deveydt - Chief Financial Officer, Head of Investor Relations and Executive Vice President


Ana Gupte - Bernstein Research

Joshua Raskin - Barclays Capital

Peter Costa - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

Justin Lake - UBS Investment Bank

Matthew Borsch - Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Scott Fidel - Deutsche Bank AG

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Charles Boorady - Crédit Suisse AG

Carl McDonald - Citigroup Inc

John Rex - JP Morgan Chase & Co

Michael Baker - Raymond James & Associates



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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the WellPoint, Inc. Fourth Quarter Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the conference over to the company's management. Please go ahead.

Michael Kleinman

Good morning, and welcome to WellPoint Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. I'm Michael Kleinman, Vice President of Investor Relations. With me this morning are Angela Braly, our Chair, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Wayne Deveydt, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Angela will begin this morning's call with an overview of our fourth quarter and full-year 2010 results, actions and accomplishments. Wayne will then offer a detailed review of our financial performance, capital management and current guidance, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Ken Goulet, Executive Vice President and President of our Commercial business; and Brian Sassi, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Marketing and President of our Consumer business are available to participate in the Q&A session.

During this call, we will reference certain non-GAAP measures. A reconciliation of these non-GAAP measures to the most directly comparable measures calculated in accordance with GAAP is available on the investor information page of our company website at

We will also be making some forward-looking statements on this call. Listeners are cautioned that these statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties, many of which are difficult to predict and generally, beyond the control of WellPoint. These risks and uncertainties can cause actual results to differ materially from our current expectations. We advise listeners to review the risk factors discussed in our press release this morning and in our quarterly and annual filings with the SEC.

I will now turn the call over to Angela.

Angela Braly

Thank you, Michael, and good morning. Today, we're pleased to report strong results for the fourth quarter of 2010. Earnings per share totaled $1.40 on a GAAP basis, and included net investment gains of approximately $0.07 per share. Earnings per share in the fourth quarter of 2009 totaled $5.95, which included net after-tax income of $4.79 per share resulting from a gain on the sale of the NextRx subsidiary, partially offset by costs for restructuring activities and intangible asset impairment.

Excluding the items noted in each period, our adjusted EPS was $1.33 for the fourth quarter of 2010, representing growth of 14.7% over adjusted EPS of $1.16 in the same period of last year.

Our fourth quarter operating results exceeded our forecast, primarily due to lower-than-expected medical costs and a reduction in the targeted margin for adverse deviation in our medical claims payable balance, partially offset by higher incentive compensation and other administrative costs related to our ongoing efficiency and continuous improvement initiatives.

We also experienced lower savings and tax from the quarter and favorability in our capital management area. The fourth quarter results were a continuation of the strong overall performance we experienced throughout 2010 as almost all of our businesses performed better than we planned.

For the full year, we reported GAAP earnings per share of $6.94, which included net investment gains of approximately $0.23 per share, partially offset by an impairment charge of $0.03 per share.

Excluding these items, our full-year 2010 adjusted EPS totaled $6.74, which was above our original guidance and represented growth of 10.7% over $6.09 of adjusted EPS in 2009.

As of December 31, 2010, our medical enrollment exceeded 33.3 million members, representing approximately 11% of the U.S. population. Our enrollment declined by 347,000 members or 1% during 2010, primarily due to the strategic transfer of UniCare business in Texas and Illinois to another Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan. This membership transfer drew out a reduction of 516,000 in our non-Blue enrollment while we achieved organic growth of 169,000 members, or 0.5% in our Blue-branded and government-sponsored businesses collectively.

Blue-branded commercial membership grew by 119,000 members despite only minimal improvement in employment during the year. Enrollment in the Federal employee program increased by 56,000, and we added 44,000 and 23,000 members respectively in our senior and state-sponsored programs.

Our Blue-branded individual membership declined by 73,000 during 2010, most of which occurred in California. We experienced net negative in-group change of 228,000 members in the Local Group business during 2010, nearly all of which occurred in the first half of the year. The negative impacts of the economy on our Local Group enrollment are stabilizing, and we grew Local Group membership by 45,000 in the fourth quarter.

This was the first quarter of enrollment growth in Local Group since the recession began. While this is an encouraging sign, the weighted average unemployment rate across our 14 Blue states is still high at nearly 10%. We expect unemployment to remain elevated during 2011 and are anticipating minimal impact on our enrollment for the in-group change this year.

As of December 31, 2010, 59% of our membership base is self-funded and 41% was fully insured. We experienced a shift in our enrollment base towards self-funding arrangements during 2010, primarily due to the conversion of a large municipal account and continued market share gains in the National businesses. We expect the shift towards self-funded products to continue within the Employer-Sponsored segment albeit at a slower pace than occurred in 2010. We're well-positioned to achieve additional membership from this dynamic given our leadership position in the commercial ASO marketplace.

We provide a very compelling value proposition for self-funded national accounts and large local employers. Through our Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliation, we offer access to the largest network of doctors and hospitals in the United States, with a leading cost structure, innovative medical management programs and capabilities and strong customer-service. These assets have been the primary driver of our continued success in the self-funded marketplace, and we exceeded 350,000 net new National Account life effective January 1, 2011. We are one of the largest National Account carriers in the country, and we will maintain our disciplined approach to growing National business in the future.

Another market in which we continue to grow is the Senior business. We recently completed the successful 2011 annual open enrollment period for our Medicare Advantage product. Based on current enrollment results, we're optimistic that Medicare Advantage membership will exceed expectations in January and are confident we'll be able to achieve moderate growth in our senior medical membership this year.

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