UPDATE 1-Health insurer Centene raises forecast as it expands coverage

Tuesday, 22 Oct 2013 | 7:40 AM ET

Oct 22 (Reuters) - Health insurer Centene Corp raised its full-year revenue forecast and reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as it benefits from expanded coverage, improved rates and a contract in Kansas.

The company said it expanded coverage in Mississippi and Florida, and its membership and premium rates increased in Texas.

Under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, small insurers including Centene are set to benefit from offering insurance on exchanges in states such as Mississippi, which large insurers do not wish to enter.

Centene said it received approval in September to operate health insurance exchanges in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas and to participate in state-based exchanges in Massachusetts and Washington.

The insurer issues forecasts for its premium and services revenue, which accounts for about 98 percent of its total revenue.

Centene said it now expected full-year premium and services revenue to be $10.6 billion-$10.8 billion compared with $10.3 billion-$10.6 billion it forecast in July.

Premium and services revenue rose 24 percent to $2.73 billion in the third quarter.

The company narrowed its full-year earnings forecast range to $2.77-$2.87 per share from $2.65-$2.90 per share.

Its health benefits ratio, a measure of medical expenses expressed as a percentage of premium revenue, fell to 87.7 percent from 93.3 percent a year earlier.

Centene said it had 2.6 million at-risk managed care members at the end of September, up 4 percent from a year earlier.

Net earnings attributable to Centene rose to $49.4 million, or 87 cents per share, in the third quarter from $3.8 million, or 7 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company earned 88 cents per share, excluding loss from its exit from Kentucky in July and other items. Analysts had expected 84 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue rose 14 percent to $2.80 billion. Analysts had estimated $2.68 billion.

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