Health insurer Aetna's adjusted profit breezes past estimates

Key Points
  • Aetna posted better-than-expected results, helped by strength in its commercial and government unit.
  • The No. 3 U.S. health insurer reported earnings of $2.71 per share, topping analysts' average estimate of $2.37, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Mark Bertolini, chairman and CEO of Aetna.
David Orrell | CNBC

Aetna reported better-than-expected adjusted earnings on Tuesday, helped primarily by strength in the U.S. health insurer's commercial and government unit even as it continued to face pressure in its Obamacare business.

President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers have vowed to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, but have not agreed on how to do that, making it difficult for insurers to plan for next year.

The No. 3 U.S. health insurer said its net loss was $381 million, or $1.11 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, compared with a profit of $737 million, or $2.08 per share, a year earlier.

The company reported a quarterly loss primarily due to costs associated with the termination of the Humana merger agreement.

Excluding items, Aetna earned $2.71 per share, smashing past analysts' average estimate of $2.37, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Aetna said last month it would exit Iowa's Obamacare-compliant individual insurance market in 2018 and it was still evaluating other remaining individual insurance markets, citing financial risk and the uncertain outlook.

The health insurer exited about a dozen markets this year and said in January it had more than 240,000 people in such individual plans and expected to post losses on them this year.

Aetna, which walked away from its $34 billion deal for Humana after it was blocked, said adjusted revenue fell 1.3 percent to $15.49 billion, but marginally above estimates of $15.44 billion.