Health Care

3rd quarter better than expected for Coventry

Coventry Health Care had a better-than-expected third quarter, CEO Allen Wise said Friday, with operating revenue of $3.4 billion and net earnings of $70.6 million.

In a conference call, Wise mentioned that the third quarter included signing an agreement to purchase Preferred Health Systems from Via Christi Health.

"I am both pleased and optimistic about the long-term Via Christi relationship," he said.

Coventry is based in Bethesda, Md., and operates in all 50 states. Coventry Health Care of Kansas has offices in Kansas City, Mo., and Wichita.

Coventry reported its total operating revenue for the quarter was up 17 percent from $2.9 billion a year ago. The $70.6 million in earnings compared with $85.5 million in the third quarter last year.

The PHS sale, announced earlier this month, is expected to be finalized in the next 90 days, Wise said. The sale must be approved by Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger.

Wise said Coventry's third-quarter results had been affected in part by "a serious flu season," possible pressures on the risk pool with the layoffs of younger employees and COBRA.

Shawn Guertin, chief financial officer, said, "The waters are still choppy out there."

Wise said he didn't know what effect health care reform efforts

in Washington would have on the company in the coming year.

"We understand that it won't be an easy year, but we think we understand how to mitigate the headwinds," Wise said. "I don't see any dramatic change."

He said the company is working to make sure it can quickly respond to national policy. "It's really difficult... when you don't know exactly where it's going to land."