U.S. Markets open in 4 hrs 56 mins

Insurer Coventry Health's 1Q profit falls 21 pct

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) -- Coventry Health Care's first-quarter earnings dropped 21 percent compared with a year ago when it booked a one-time gain tied to the health insurer's Medicare Advantage program.

The Bethesda, Md., company said Wednesday that it earned $135.4 million, or $1 per share, in the three months that ended March 31. That is down from $170.7 million, or $1.20 per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Revenue fell 4.6 percent to $3.52 billion from $3.69 billion.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected, on average, earnings of 81 cents per share on $3.71 billion in revenue.

Coventry Health Care Inc. said last year's quarter included a gain of 58 cents per share for the release of reserves due to audit methodology changes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Coventry provides commercial health insurance. It also administers Medicaid, the state and federally funded program that covers the needy and disabled people, and it offers Medicare Advantage plans. Those are subsidized versions of the federal government's Medicare program for the elderly and disabled people.

The insurer's enrollment slipped 2 percent in the first quarter to 3.7 million people, not counting Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Coventry is being acquired by a larger insurer, Aetna Inc., in a $5.7 billion deal that was announced last year. Aetna said Tuesday that it has received the state regulatory backing it needs, and it is awaiting final approval from the U.S. Department of Justice. Aetna aims to close the deal by the middle of the year.

Shares of Coventry rose 22 cents to $49.77 in trading Wednesday. Its shares have climbed about 11 percent so far this year.