WellPoint (WLP)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 26, 2011 8:30 am ET


Wayne S. Deveydt - Chief Financial officer and Executive Vice President

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Brian A. Sassi - Executive Vice President of Strategy and Marketing, Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Business Unit and President of Consumer Business Unit

Michael Kleinman - Vice President of Investor Relations and Acting Vice President of Internal Audit, Ethics & Compliance

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

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


Carl R. McDonald - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Charles Andrew Boorady - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Kevin M. Fischbeck - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Matthew Borsch - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Christine Arnold - Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division

Doug Simpson - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Justin Lake - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Scott J Fidel - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

David H. Windley - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

Joshua R. Raskin - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Ana Gupte - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division

John F. Rex - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division



Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the WellPoint Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to the company's management.

Michael Kleinman

Good morning, and welcome to WellPoint's Third 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 third quarter 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 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 our company website at www.wellpoint.com.

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 F. Braly

Thank you, Michael, and good morning. Today, we're pleased to report third quarter 2011 earnings per share of $1.90, which included net investment gains of $0.13 per share.

Earnings per share in the third quarter of 2010 totaled $1.84 per share and included net investment gains of $0.10 per share. Excluding the net investment gains in each period, our adjusted EPS was $1.77 in the third quarter of 2011, an increase of 1.7% compared with adjusted EPS of $1.74 in the same period of last year.

Our third quarter results were higher than we anticipated and were driven by continued strong performance in our Commercial segment.

On a consolidated basis, we experienced sequential increases in both membership and operating gain during the quarter and based on our overall results, today, we're raising our full year 2011 earnings per share guidance to a range of $7.18 to $7.28 on a GAAP basis, which includes $0.28 per share of net investment gains in the first 3 quarters.

On an adjusted basis or excluding the net investment gain, our full year EPS guidance is $6.90 to $7.

Our medical enrollment increased by 169,000 members during the third quarter and totaled approximately $34.4 million as of September 30, 2011. We added 99,000 members organically in our Local Group business during the quarter, while our Senior enrollment increased by 89,000 including 57,000 members from the CareMore acquisition and organic growth from agents.

These increases were partially offset by modest in-group attrition in our National business. We believe that further attrition is likely during the fourth quarter, and we therefore expect in 2011 with approximately 34.2 million members.

In light of current economic conditions, we anticipate that in-group membership attrition will continue to pressure our enrollment in 2012. We currently expect that the number of workers with health benefits may decline modestly, as many employers are facing a challenging business outlook.

We also expect that individual membership will continue to be negatively impacted by the economy.

In our National business, we expect to maintain our leadership position next year with enrollment in excess of 12 million members. We had another successful selling season in a competitive marketplace with some very large account wins, and we continue to attract new customers as a result of our compelling value proposition.

By offering access to the broadest provider network in the country, with the leading cost structure, strong medical management program, innovative health and wellness capabilities, actionable transparency tools and superior customer service, our value proposition is excellent for National Accounts.

We remained disciplined in our pricing of new business in renewals. As a result, we will lose some no or low margin accounts next year. Coupling this with our expectation that negative and group change will continue for National Accounts, we now expect a small decline in National Account membership for 2012, while we continue to anticipate that our national operating gain will grow.

In the Senior market, we're making a number of changes to our business for 2012. In California, we've restructured our Medicare Advantage portfolio, and we'll be offering products on a local basis. We believe our plan designs and pricing appropriately reflect the underlying cost of the local market and we expect improved financial results.

Additionally, we'll be expanding our Medicare Advantage footprint outside of California including large expansions in Georgia, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In total, we will be growing our Medicare Advantage service territory by 136 counties in 11 states. And we expect this to drive growth in our Senior membership next year. We're also pleased that the CareMore acquisition closed earlier than we'd anticipated. We're working diligently to bring the CareMore model to more members across the country and currently expect to open at least a dozen new care centers in 2012.

We believe this will enhance our ability to create better quality health outcomes for seniors and improve our future membership and revenue growth.

In our State Sponsored programs, we expect relatively stable enrollment for 2012. We expect to gain additional members through the continued implementation of the California Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Managed Care Program. And I'm also pleased to announce that we will be serving as an administrative services partner to Health Care Service Corporation or HCSC, the parent company of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plants in Texas, Illinois, Mexico and Oklahoma. Together, we will provide Medicaid benefits in the Austin, Texas area beginning March 1, 2012.

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