Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had a largely positive impact on health insurers’ bottom lines — given the sheer magnitude of deferred routine and elective care — two publicly traded payers’ recent fourth-quarter earnings results show that they are not immune from the myriad costs associated with the case surge that occurred in the fall and winter of 2020. Cigna Corp., which reported its fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 financial results on Feb. 4, posted an adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $3.51, missing the consensus Wall Street estimate of $3.68 because of “higher COVID cost in the quarter,” as Citi analyst Ralph Giacobbe put it. Most of that pressure was felt in the company’s U.S. Medical segment — which houses its commercial and government-sponsored insurance businesses — as fourth-quarter adjusted income from operations and adjusted margins both declined year over year due to COVID-19 and the one year-return of the health insurance fee.
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