(Reuters) – Cigna Corp reported better-than-expected first-quarter profit on Friday, helped by growth in its healthcare services unit that includes the pharmacy benefit management business, and raised its adjusted profit forecast slightly for the whole year.
Health insurers have come under pressure due to volatile medical costs during the pandemic, some of which have been offset by the postponement of elective medical procedures.
Evernorth, Cigna’s healthcare services unit that has contributed to growth in recent quarters, reported adjusted revenue of $33.59 billion in the quarter ended March 31, compared to 30, $62 billion a year earlier.
Cigna raised its 2022 adjusted operating profit forecast slightly to at least $22.60 per share, from its earlier estimate of a low of $22.40 per share.
Biggest rivals UnitedHealth Group and Anthem also raised their 2022 adjusted earnings forecast last month, with industry leader UnitedHealth reporting that although demand for delayed procedures was approaching normal levels, it had not increased as it was feared, resulting in lower claims and costs.
Cigna’s medical care ratio (MCR), the amount spent on medical claims to premium income, deteriorated to 81.5% in the quarter under review, from 80.9% a year earlier, partly due to rising medical costs.
Excluding special items, Cigna’s operating profit was $6.01 per share, above analysts’ average estimate of $5.18, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Shinjini Ganguli)