Cancer Screenings Make Comeback After Pandemic Slump, Cigna Says

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Health insurer Cigna Corp. said the amount of preventive care received by its members during the first quarter rose to match levels seen before the pandemic began.

Cigna said it worked to drive up use of preventive services, which the company said remain suppressed nationally. Preventive care like mammographies, colonoscopies, childhood vaccinations, and cervical cancer screenings all rebounded, Cigna Chief Executive Officer David Cordani said in a call with analysts. “That’s a tremendous result,” he said.

Cancer Screenings Make Comeback After Pandemic Slump, Cigna Says

The early months of the pandemic led to widespread shutdowns of planned surgeries and routine care in the U.S. a year ago. The rebound in services like childhood immunizations and cancer screenings suggests that disruptions to health-care delivery triggered by the coronavirus are abating.

Health insurers have said that non-Covid care tended to move in the inverse direction of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Aggregate medical spending in the U.S. dropped in 2020 for the first time on record, according to recent estimates from the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health System Tracker.

Cigna rose as much as 2.6% as of 10:23 a.m. in New York. The shares had gained 23% this year through Thursday.

Among the most concerning trends, regular visits to detect progressive diseases like cancer dropped off sharply, raising the risk that people would be diagnosed with more severe illnesses at later stages. Cigna focused on driving patients to those and other preventive services, Cordani said.

“It’s a very good thing and something that our team has worked tirelessly to try to effectuate, elevating those levels,” Cordani said.

First-quarter Covid-19 cases slowed more quickly than Cigna had anticipated, and other care increased. Cigna continues to expect coronavirus treatment and testing costs to drop and non-Covid costs to increase, executives said.

Forecast Boost

The insurer reported adjusted quarterly earnings that beat analysts’ estimates and boosted its profit outlook for the year. Adjusted income from operations was $4.73 per share, above the $4.41 average of projections compiled by Bloomberg.

The health-care conglomerate projected adjusted income from operations of at least $20.20 a share for the year, a 20-cent boost from the most recent forecast. The company still expects a net negative impact of $1.25 a share from Covid-19.

Cigna’s medical loss ratio, a measure of health insurance premiums paid out in medical claims, was 81.8% for the first quarter, compared with 78.3% a year ago. The company cited Covid-19 impacts and the effect of a tax change. Income in its U.S. medical benefits business fell compared to a year earlier.

Its first-quarter earnings results were led by the company’s Evernorth health services segment, in which both revenue and income grew by 13% year-over-year. The company’s pharmacy benefits business, part of Evernorth, added 2.2 million customers in the quarter to reach 101 million. Total pharmacy prescriptions filled increased by 9%.

Overall adjusted operating income in the quarter fell slightly, to $1.7 billion, compared with $1.8 billion a year ago.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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