Company news

October 21, 2013

WellPoint Inc.’s third-quarter earnings report will get extra scrutiny after industry bellwether UnitedHealth Group disappointed investors last week and after the technical failures of the Obamacare exchanges. According to the Associated Press, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth’s third-quarter profit inched up just 1 percent compared with the same three-month period a year ago. UnitedHealth executives then narrowed the company’s full-year profit forecast, rather than raising it. That sent the stock prices of UnitedHealth, WellPoint and other health insurers tumbling. WellPoint shares had been trading near their all-time high of $90 apiece, buoyed by strong predictions about new revenue the company expects to glean from Obamacare. That has raised investors expectations for health insurers profit growth, said Citi analyst Carl McDonald. Enrollment started Oct. 1 in new public insurance exchanges that are part of President Obama’s health care overhaul. Indianapolis-based WellPoint won't have exchange enrollment data to share next week, but investors expect it to provide some insight into how enrollment has gone. Wall Street analysts expect WellPoint to post third-quarter profit of $1.81 per share, which would be a decline from the same quarter a year ago, and revenue of $17.7 billion.

Indiana could lose $63 million in payments next year from the 1998 tobacco settlement after an arbitration panel determined it had not worked hard enough to collect funds from cigarette companies that aren’t part of the deal. According to TheStatehouseFile, the ruling by a three-judge panel will reduce Indiana’s payment from $131 million to $68 million in 2014. And that’s just for claims from 2003; the years 2004 through 2012 remain in dispute. The state uses tobacco settlement payments to fund various public health programs. For the next two years, the state can make up the lost money out of its $2 billion surplus, said Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. But Kenley has encouraged the Indiana Attorney General’s office to appeal the decision because an extended reduction in payments would have to be considered in future budgets. Forty-six states, including Indiana, signed what was called a master settlement agreement in 1998 with four of the largest cigarette manufacturers in the United States. Since then, roughly 40 other tobacco companies have joined the settlement, which requires the companies to make annual payments to states.

Nutrabiotix LLC, based in Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, has received a $2.5 million federal grant to develop a fiber to help patients with irritable bowel syndrome. The fiber was created by Purdue food science professor Bruce Hamaker and Dr. Ali Keshavarzian, a gastroenterologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where the fiber has undergone two human clinical trials. Nutrabiotix received its latest funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nutrabiotix received another grant from NIH in 2010 for $250,000.