Aetna's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Aetna (AET)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 26, 2012 8:30 am ET

Executives

Thomas F. Cowhey - Vice President of Investor Relations

Mark T. Bertolini - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President, Chairman of Executive Committee and Member of Investment & Finance Committee

Joseph M. Zubretsky - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Executive Vice President

Analysts

Matthew Borsch - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Joshua R. Raskin - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Charles Andrew Boorady - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

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

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

Peter H. Costa - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Christian Rigg - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Douglas Simpson - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Christine Arnold - Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division

Carl R. McDonald - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Kevin M. Fischbeck - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Scott J. Fidel - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good morning. My name is Casey, and I will be your conference facilitator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Aetna First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Tom Cowhey, Vice President of Investor Relations. Mr. Cowhey, please go ahead.

Thomas F. Cowhey

Good morning, and thank you for joining Aetna's first quarter 2012 earnings call and webcast. This is Tom Cowhey, Vice President of Investor Relations for Aetna, and with me this morning are Aetna's Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Mark Bertolini; and Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Joe Zubretsky. Following their prepared remarks, we will respond to your questions.

During this call, we will make forward-looking statements. Risk factors that may impact those statements and could cause actual future results to differ materially from currently projected results are described in this morning's press release and the reports we file with the SEC, including our 2011 Form 10-K and our first quarter 2012 Form 10-Q when filed.

We have provided reconciliations of metrics related to the company's performance that are non-GAAP measures in our first quarter 2012 financial supplement and our 2012 guidance summary. These reconciliations are available on the Investor Information section of aetna.com. Also, as you know, our ability to respond to certain inquiries from investors and analysts in nonpublic forums is limited, so we invite you to ask all questions of a material nature on this call.

With that, I will turn the call over to Mark Bertolini. Mark?

Mark T. Bertolini

Good morning. Thank you, Tom, and thank you, all, for joining us today. This morning, we reported first quarter operating earnings per share of $1.34, a solid performance following on the excellent results we saw in 2011. Our businesses are performing well, and the operating metrics we posted this quarter are testimony to our having achieved the correct balance between maintaining our margins and positioning for future growth.

We believe that our products are competitively positioned in the marketplace, and consistent with previous guidance we are pricing new and renewal business to a higher level of projected utilization for 2012. In short, we are pleased with our first quarter results and our sustained execution on the fundamentals.

As we look forward to the remainder of 2012, we expect top line and membership growth and strong operating performance. At this early point in the year and as we continue to watch our yields and trends develop through the first quarter, we believe it is prudent to maintain our current earnings outlook. As a result, we remain confident in our full year operating earnings per share guidance of approximately $5 per share. In a few moments, Joe will review our detailed results and our updated guidance. But first, I'm going to discuss our first quarter 2012 highlights and 2012 outlook and our progress in advancing our strategy.

Aetna's first quarter financial results are evidence of the rigor with which we manage the business. Underlying these results, Aetna grew Health Care premiums by over 6% this quarter, demonstrating growth across all our lines of business. As a result of Aetna's continued pricing discipline, medical cost management and unit cost control, we continue to maintain strong commercial underwriting margins. We continue to focus on striking a disciplined balance between margin and growth, erring on the side of margin.

Our Medicare business posted an excellent quarter as we added 44,000 members. More than 75% of our Medicare Advantage growth came from our group Medicare franchise, a testament to our strength in the segment of the Medicare Advantage marketplace. We ended the quarter as expected with 17.9 million medical members. Our membership results reflects previously projected decreases in our National Account business and our exit from the Connecticut Medicaid program, partially offset by growth in our Medicare, International and middle markets businesses.

We continue to be pleased with our membership traction across multiple business lines. As a result of this balanced membership traction, we are introducing year-end membership guidance of 18.2 million members, which represents growth of approximately 300,000 members over the remainder of the year. This projected growth comes from each of our major business lines and is driven by known wins in Commercial ASC, expansion in Medicaid and projected growth in Commercial Insured and Medicare in the latter part of the year.

In advancing our strategy, we remain focused on our long-term goal of making health care more accessible and affordable. To achieve this goal, we are focusing on growing the core business, adapting to the changing health care marketplace and deploying capital effectively. To accelerate growth in our core business, we have realigned some of our business units and added talent to our leadership team. In early March, we realigned our Medicare, Medicaid, public and labor and federal benefit planned businesses into one operating unit, Government Services. We believe this change will better serve our government customers, advance our retiree solutions and position us for the dual eligible opportunity. Kristi Ann Matus, who joined us in March as an Executive Vice President, is leading the Government Services businesses. Kristi joins us from USAA where she was a member of their senior leadership team.

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