Insurance giant blames ObamaCare for profit plunge

One of the nation’s largest insurers on Wednesday said ObamaCare was partly to blame for the company’s 68 percent drop in profits for the fourth quarter.

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Wellpoint said consumers wary of losing their health plans flocked to doctors before the end of the year, resulting in “higher utilization” costs than the company expected.

“A lot of it came from those individuals who were maybe uncertain,” Wellpoint spokeswoman Kristin Binns told Reuters in an interview. “You had this dynamic where individuals are having difficulty shopping for new plans and they’ve received policy cancellation notices.”

Wellpoint also took a significant one-time charge on the sale of two of its businesses.

Still, it was optimistic about its future prospects under ObamaCare, saying it expected to add more than 1 million new customers in 2014. The company didn’t break down how many of those would come through its private plans, rather than federal and state exchanges.

But Wellpoint added 500,000 new customers in the fourth quarter, saying federal subsidies drove many of those consumers to sign up through the federal exchanges.

Wellpoint CEO Joe Swedish said the company was pulling in more ObamaCare consumers than it expected.

“We are encouraged by the sizable growth opportunities,” he said in a conference call with analysts and reporters.