INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- WellPoint Inc. said Wednesday that its first-quarter profit fell 7.6 percent as enrollment slipped and expenses rose, but the health insurer raised its earnings forecast for 2012.
The Indianapolis company reported net income of $856.5 million, or $2.53 per share, for the three months ended March 31, down from $926.6 million, or $2.44 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding investment gains, WellPoint earned $2.34 per share in this year's first quarter.
Operating revenue climbed 3.4 percent to $15.15 billion from $14.65 billion a year ago.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected, on average, earnings of $2.27 per share on $15.41 billion in revenue.
WellPoint is the second-largest health insurer after UnitedHealth Group Inc. It runs Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 14 states, including California, New York and Ohio. Total medical membership fell nearly 2 percent to 33.7 million people compared to the end of last year, as the insurer lost enrollment in plans that provide health insurance to employees of small businesses and large, national accounts.
The company's benefit expense, or what it pays in medical claims, climbed 4.8 percent to $11.77 billion in the quarter. WellPoint said increases in the price for care continue to be the biggest force behind medical cost trends.
WellPoint now expects 2012 adjusted earnings of at least $7.65 per share, up from a previous forecast for at least $7.60 per share. But that is still below analysts' estimates for earnings of $7.72 per share.
WellPoint shares rose 24 cents to $71 in premarket trading.