Updated from 6:36 a.m. EST

Health insurer

WellPoint

(WLP)

said fourth-quarter earnings fell 61% to $331.4 million, or 65 cents a share, including net realized investment losses of $350.5 million, or 69 cents a share.

Net income in the year-earlier fourth quarter was $859.1 million, or $1.51 a share, which included net realized investment gains of less than 1 cent a share.

WellPoint CEO Angela Braly said the company's operating results were in line with expectations, and reflected the "actions taken to effectively manage our business both during the current economic downturn and for the long-term." While the company's enrollment levels are being "impacted by rising unemployment, our customer retention rates remain very strong." Braly said.

Revenue fell 3.2% to $15.07 billion from $15.57 billion a year earlier.

Analysts expected earnings of $1.36 a share on revenue of $15.56 billion.

The latest fourth quarter also included a charge of $24 million related to job cuts. WellPoint said earlier this month that it would eliminate about 1,500 jobs, or more than 3% of its staff.

Indianapolis-based WellPoint says it spent 83.4% of premium revenue on medical care, up slightly from last year. While premium revenue grew in all businesses, it lost a key drug contract and had lower fully insured membership.

WellPoint, which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, said its membership fell by 288,000 in the fourth quarter, or 0.8%, as employers cut jobs. The commercial insurance business was hardest hit by the economic downturn.

WellPoint finished the year with 35 million members, up from about 34.8 million a year ago.

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