2nd UPDATE: Humana 2Q Profit Rises 34% On Medicare Business
Humana Inc.'s (HUM) second-quarter earnings rose 34% as strong
results in the health insurer's Medicare business offset declining
enrollment and cost pressures in its commercial segment.
The Louisville-based company also affirmed its 2009 earnings
outlook while slightly increasing the forecast for costs in its
commercial health plans.
Humana shares recently traded up 59 cents, or 1.8%, to
"Humana's 2Q09 results reflect significant improvement in the
government sector driven by higher margins in the Medicare and
[prescription drug plan] book of business," Credit Suisse Group
analyst Gregory Nersessian said. He added that the positive
momentum in the government segment was offset partially by
disappointing commercial-segment results, hurt by membership
losses, higher administrative expenses and higher medical
While Humana's government sector performed well, the company,
which derives a majority of its business from Medicare Advantage
health plans, is looking to diversify, Humana President and Chief
Executive Michael McCallister said during a conference call.
Humana's business composition makes it more exposed than other
major insurers to potential cuts in Medicare reimbursements.
"Clearly we would like to be more diversified than we are,"
McCallister told analysts, and noted that Humana has acquired
dental, vision, behavioral health and other businesses. Being so
"upside down" isn't good for the company, he said.
"We're constantly looking at opportunities, we are constantly
assessing the usual suspects out there in terms of opportunities
for larger scale activity," McCallister said. "We will be
thoughtful, we will be strategic, we understand what options we
have and we will take a rational approach," he said, declining to
be more specific on a time frame.
Humana and other health insurers remain under pressure from
rising medical costs and declining commercial enrollment - trends
that are only exacerbated by the effects of the recession, notably
layoffs. They also anticipate cuts in their payments from the
Medicare program, and uncertainty on the outcome of U.S.
health-overhaul efforts, in which Democratic political leaders are
pushing a public-health-plan option that the industry opposes.
Humana edged up its forecast for commercial medical costs, which
the company expects to increase by some 7% this year, citing the
aging population and effects of the economy. Like some of its
peers, Humana is seeing patients use more medical services as they
anticipate layoffs and loss of health insurance, and has noticed
health providers ordering more services for patients.
The company reported a second-quarter profit of $281.8 million,
or $1.67 a share, compared with $209.9 million, or $1.24 a share, a
year earlier. The company in April projected earnings of $1.65 to
$1.70 a share, above analysts' estimates at the time.
Revenue increased 7.5% to $7.9 billion. Analysts polled by
Thomson Reuters most recently were looking for $7.77 billion.
Humana's medical cost ratio - the percentage of premium revenue
used to pay medical bills - declined to 83.3% from 85% a year
earlier. The company's total medical membership fell 10% to 10.3
million year over year, and was essentially flat from the prior
Medicare Advantage membership was up 4% year-to-date, while
commercial-segment membership was down 5% year to date in spite of
gains in individual-plan enrollment.
Pretax profit in the government segment surged 62% while pretax
profit in Humana's commercial business slumped 53%, in part on
lower investment income.
For the third quarter, the company expects earnings of $1.75 to
$1.80 a share, while analysts were looking for $1.78. The company
affirmed its 2009 per-share earnings outlook of $6.10 to $6.20,
excluding the effect of future share repurchases and potential
charges associated with the loss of the Tricare military contract
next year. Humana is protesting the loss of that contract.
Oppenheimer analyst Carl McDonald noted that Humana's medical
claims payable rose $170 million sequentially, resulting in a 1.5
day increase in days claims payable and suggesting a possible
strengthening of reserves.
"This increases our conviction in Humana's ability to meet or
beat EPS guidance in the second half of the year," McDonald
-By Dinah Wisenberg Brin, Dow Jones Newswires; 215-656-8285;
(Tess Stynes and George Stahl contributed to this report.)