Insurer Aetna announced Friday that fourth quarter profits fell 15 percent to $165.9 million, or 38 cents per share versus $194.7 million, or 42 cnets per share in the same period last year.
The company said that claims were on average more expensive than a year ago, in part due to swine flu treatment and an increase in the use of COBRA coverage. Aetna says that 85 percent of commercial premium revenue was spent on medical costs.
For the full year, profit was down eight percent to $1.28 billion, or $2.84 per share; the company forecasts it will earn $2.55 to $2.65 per share.
Aetna shares fell last month when the company said it would earn less than it had forecast in 2009. The insurer had set its prices below that of competitors, which helped it gain market share, but squeezed margines.
Competitors UnitedHealth, WellPoint, Humana, and Cigna all reported better than epected earnings despite sizable enrollment drops.
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