WASHINGTON (AP) — Express Scripts reported a 12 percent drop in its first-quarter earnings Tuesday, saying its prescription sales were hit by severe winter weather and slower-than-expected enrollment in the new public insurance exchanges.
The nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager scaled back its 2014 earnings guidance to between $4.82 and $4.94 per share, citing several customer delays which pushed back implementation of service to early 2015 from mid-2014. The company had previously forecast earnings in the range of $4.88 to $5 per share.
Company shares fell 5 percent in after-hours trading.
State-based health insurance exchanges opened for enrollment last fall, and customers could start using income-based tax credits to buy coverage that started in January. But problems with a key conduit for those exchanges, the HealthCare.gov website, left many exchange customers frustrated and slowed enrollment. Insurers worried that, at least initially, the only people who would persist through the problems and sign up for coverage would be sick customers who generate lots of claims.
Earlier this month, Express Scripts released some data showing that patients from the health care overhaul's new insurance exchanges have been more likely to use expensive specialty drugs for chronic conditions. The company said that just over 1 percent of the prescriptions it processed from exchange enrollees in January and February were for specialty medicines. That compares with less than 1 percent of patients with commercial health plans.