Centene reports 40% revenue boost in Q1 amid plans to purchase rival WellCare

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Centene reported its first-quarter earnings on Tuesday morning. (Getty/monsitj)

Centene Corporation posted a significant boost in earnings and revenue over the first quarter of 2019 compared to a year prior, the company announced Tuesday morning.

As part of Centene's posted first-quarter financials, the company reported $522 million in net earnings compared to $340 million in the first quarter of 2018. Revenues were up 40% compared to the same period in 2018, reaching $18.4 billion, according to the report. 

"Solid first quarter results and increased 2019 guidance are indicative of the sustainability of our profitable growth trajectory," CEO Michael Neidorff said in the announcement. "We continue to focus on the fundamentals of the business that will drive long-term shareholder value, irrespective of headline volatility."

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The biggest headline of Centene's first quarter was its plans to purchase rival insurer WellCare in a deal valued at more than $17 billion. Centene projects that deal to close in the first half of 2020, though it's still pending regulatory approvals and the OK from stockholders in both insurers.

Neidorff said on the company's earnings call Tuesday morning that Centene has submitted formal requests for approval in five states and has been in talks with the Department of Justice about moving forward with the deal. The merger, if approved, will "bolster and diversify" Centene's products and allow it to access new markets.

Divestitures in Nebraska and Missouri are on the table as the negotiations continue, Neidorff said.

Centene also reported a notable increase in its membership for the first quarter, according to the announcement. Its managed care membership reached 14.7 million, an increase of 1.8 million from the first quarter of 2018.

Much of that growth was in its Medicaid membership, which increased from about 7.1 million to more than 8.4 million.

Due to these results, Centene has increased its guidance for the rest of the year, boosting its revenue projections by $2 billion and earnings per share by $0.13.

RELATED: Centene still bullish on ACA exchanges despite legal challenges to the law 

Neidorff also touched on policy matters on the call. He said the company believes there is "little appetite in Washington" to dive into a comprehensive healthcare reform, either repealing the Affordable Care Act or overhauling the system thorugh a Medicare for All plan, as the political class has turned its attention to the 2020 presdiental election.

The company aims to actively participate in discussions to grow and bolster government healthcare programs. 

"Centene will continue to work with both parties on a bipartisan solution that strengthens the nation's healthcare delivery system," he said.

He highlighted prescription drugs, particularly increasing transparency on pricing, as a bright spot for bipartisan solution.

UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann also took aim at Medicare for All in the company's Q1 earnings call, leading to a significant stock sell-off.

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