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May 10, 2012

Express Scripts outlook could fall short of Street

By Lewis Krauskopf and Bill Berkrot

(Reuters) – Express Scripts Holding Co (ESRX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) projected full-year profit that could fall short of Wall Street’s target in its first forecast since closing a $29 billion purchase of Medco Health Solutions.

The U.S. pharmacy benefit manager also reported first-quarter profit below analysts’ expectations on Thursday, as it spent more ahead of its massive integration of Medco.

May 10, 2012

Medicare billing flagged at 4 percent of U.S. pharmacies: government

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – A U.S. government examination found questionble billing practices for Medicare prescription drug coverage at 4 percent of American pharmacies, particularly independent retail drugstores.

The report was issued by the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, which has previously found limited safeguards to prevent fraud and abuse in the Medicare drug program for seniors, known as Medicare Part D.

May 10, 2012

Medicare billing flagged at 4 pct of US pharmacies-govt

May 10 (Reuters) – A U.S. government examination found
questionble billing practices for Medicare prescription drug
coverage at 4 percent of American pharmacies, particularly
independent retail drugstores.

The report was issued by the U.S. Health and Human Services’
Office of Inspector General, which has previously found limited
safeguards to prevent fraud and abuse in the Medicare drug
program for seniors, known as Medicare Part D.

May 7, 2012

Vertex shares soar on cystic fibrosis drug data

By Bill Berkrot and Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc’s (VRTX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) new cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco, when combined with its experimental treatment for the disease, led to significant improvement in lung function in a mid-stage study, sending Vertex shares soaring 45 percent.

The data suggested Vertex could have a multibillion-dollar franchise in cystic fibrosis, a life threatening genetic disorder that affects about 70,000 people worldwide.

May 3, 2012

Cigna profit misses Street; outlook raised

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Insurer Cigna Corp (CI.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted a lower-than-expected first-quarter profit on Thursday, as spending weighed on its disability and life coverage segment, but the company raised its full-year profit outlook.

Cigna expects an increased profit from its main healthcare segment for 2012, helping drive its higher earnings projections for the year. It now expects to enroll 1.2 million more members this year, up from prior expectations of an increase of 900,000, as the insurer adds to its plans serving employers.

May 3, 2012

Cigna profit misses Street; outlook reassures

May 3 (Reuters) – Insurer Cigna Corp posted a
lower-than-expected first-quarter profit on Thursday, as
spending weighed on its disability and life coverage segment,
but the company raised its full-year profit outlook.
Cigna expects an increased profit from its main healthcare
segment for 2012, helping drive its higher earnings projections
for the year. It now expects to enroll 1.2 million more members
this year, up from prior expectations of an increase of 900,000,
as the insurer adds to its plans serving employers.
“We believe the update to guidance should more than offset
any (disappointment) around the modest earnings shortfall,”
Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Chris Rigg said in a
research note.
Shares of Cigna slipped 0.1 percent in morning trading.
Cigna’s report closes a mixed reporting season for major
U.S. health insurers. Aside from Cigna, Aetna Inc,
Coventry Health Care and Humana Inc all missed
Wall Street profit targets during the period.
Separately on Thursday, smaller insurer Health Net Inc
reported weak quarterly results and slashed its
full-year earnings forecast, sending its shares tumbling 22
percent.
Cigna’s net income fell to $371 million, or $1.28 per share,
from $413 million, or $1.51 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding special items, Cigna’s earnings of $1.28 per share
fell 2 cents below the analysts’ average estimate, according to
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue jumped 25 percent to $6.79 billion, helped by the
acquisition of Medicare specialist HealthSpring, which closed at
the end of January.
The $3.8 billion acquisition jump-started Cigna’s business
selling privately administered Medicare plans for senior
citizens, as the insurer seeks to capitalize on the wave of baby
boomers becoming eligible for the federal health program.
Profit in the main healthcare segment rose 6.5 percent to
$262 million. Enrollment in its plans stood at 12.22 million at
the end of March, up more than 7 percent.
“Enrollment growth in the quarter was stronger than
expected,” Leerink Swann analyst Jason Gurda said.
The company’s profit also benefited from $38 million it had
set aside to pay for medical claims in prior periods, because
those claims did not materialize.
Earnings in its disability and life segment fell 16 percent
to $65 million. The company cited strategic investments in its
disability management programs as a factor pushing down profit.
Leerink’s Gurda was expecting earnings of $68 million for the
segment.
Profit jumped 31 percent to $80 million in its international
segment, in which it sells supplemental insurance to
individuals in Asia and elsewhere and offers coverage to
employees working abroad.
Cigna forecast 2012 earnings of $5.20 to $5.55 per share. It
previously projected $5.00 to $5.40. Analysts have been looking
for $5.41.
Cigna shares fell 0.1 percent to $46.51 in morning trading
on the New York Stock Exchange. Through Wednesday, Cigna shares
had climbed nearly 11 percent this year, compared with a 9
percent rise for the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor index
of health insurers.

May 1, 2012

Biogen profit below Street view; outlook strong

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Biogen Idec Inc’s (BIIB.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) quarterly profit fell short of analysts’ estimates on weak sales of its Avonex multiple sclerosis treatment, its biggest-selling product.

But the biotechnology company said the Avonex shortfall stemmed largely from temporary issues and it also issued an encouraging forecast for 2012. The company’s shares were off about 1 percent in afternoon trading.

Apr 30, 2012

Humana profit falls 21 pct, missing Street view

April 30 (Reuters) – Humana Inc posted a 21 percent
decline in quarterly profit on Monday, missing Wall Street’s
target, as higher medical benefit costs weighed on the health
insurer’s results. Its shares fell 3.5 percent in premarket
trading.

The first-quarter report from Humana, one of the largest
providers of Medicare plans for the elderly, comes after rival
insurers Aetna Inc and Coventry Health Care Inc
posted lower-than-expected profits last week.

Apr 27, 2012

Medicaid costs weigh on Coventry; shares dive

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Insurer Coventry Health Care Inc (CVH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit and issued a disappointing full-year outlook as costs from a Medicaid plan for low-income Americans weighed heavily on results, and its shares fell 11 percent.

While overall enrollment in Coventry’s Medicaid plans nearly doubled in the first quarter, costs for a plan in Kentucky were well above premiums.

Apr 26, 2012

Aetna profit misses analysts’ target, shares fall

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Health insurer Aetna Inc reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday as higher claim costs and administrative expenses weighed on results, and shares fell nearly 9 percent.

Aetna, whose shares had outperformed rivals this year, is the first major health insurer to miss earnings estimates for the first quarter, after WellPoint Inc and UnitedHealth Group Inc posted higher-than-expected profits and raised their full-year outlooks.

    • About Lewis

      "I help coordinate coverage of healthcare companies for Reuters in the United States. I also cover health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, generic drugmakers and pharmaceutical companies."
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