CareFirst's 1st-quarter earnings fell 6%


CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield reported yesterday essentially flat results for its first quarter, which ended March 31. The health insurer reported earnings of $24.7 million, down 6 percent from the $26.2 million posted a year earlier. The difference resulted from a drop in investment income and other noninsurance revenue, said G. Mark Chaney, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

CareFirst's underwriting gain - premium revenue minus claims and administrative costs - was $13.9 million in the quarter, up 13.7 percent from a $12.3 million gain in the first quarter of last year.

CareFirst, the state's largest health insurer, is nonprofit and uses its surplus for reserves or to invest in new equipment or other needs. It has filed for permission to convert to for-profit and sell itself to WellPoint Health Networks of California.

Chaney termed the quarter "solid," with revenue keeping pace with medical costs, administrative costs dropping slightly as a percentage of revenue and membership growing.

Revenue in the quarter was $1.6 billion, up 12.7 percent from $1.4 billion in the year-earlier period. Most of that resulted from higher premiums, although membership, at 3,157,000, grew 2.6 percent over the year. Medical costs rose 13.2 percent, consuming the higher revenue.

Administrative costs accounted for 8.7 percent of revenue, down from 9.1 percent.

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