Aetna 4Q Profit Grows on Low Claim Costs

By Features FOXBusiness

Aetna (AET) revealed a sharply higher fourth-quarter profit that matched expectations as its members visited fewer doctors and prices crept higher.   

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The nation’s third biggest health insurer posted net income of $372.6 million, or $1.02 a share, compared with a year-earlier $215.6 million, or 53 cents. Excluding one-time items, the company earned 97 cents, matching average analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Revenue for the three-month period was $8.54 billion, virtually flat from $8.51 a year ago and just ahead of the Street’s $8.5 billion view.

Aetna attributed the improved results to fewer doctor visits by customers that helped keep its medical costs low and higher prices. In its health care business, earnings grew about 30% to $361.8 million and medical membership increased by 229,000 to 18.46 million.

In a statement, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said the company made strategic investments in acquisitions and technologies to both extend Aetna's core health business and poise it to “capitalize on exciting new consumer and provider opportunities emerging in the marketplace.”

The company reaffirmed its 2012 view with shares at about $5, excluding items, which would be a slight decline from 2011. Wall Street is looking for a fiscal profit of $5.09.