The insurer's bottom line was helped, in part, by $243 million in investment gains and an income tax settlement.
Excluding those gains and other adjustments, earnings totaled $1.03 per share. Operating revenue, which excludes investment gains, inched up less than 1 percent to $15.27 billion.
Analysts expected, on average, earnings of 94 cents per share on $15.29 billion in revenue. Analysts typically exclude investment gains from their estimates.
In the final quarter of 2011, WellPoint took a $50 million hit from its Medicare Advantage business, which involves privately run versions of the government's Medicare program that covers the elderly and disabled people. It reported no such problem in the most recent fourth quarter, but the insurer did say it saw a decline in its Medicare and Medicaid-related business.
WellPoint's membership grew more than 5 percent to 36.1 million people compared to the 2011 quarter, largely due to its recently completed, $4.46 billion acquisition of Medicaid coverage provider Amerigroup Corp. Medicaid is the state-federal program that provides health coverage for the needy and disabled people.
WellPoint is the nation's second-largest insurer, trailing only UnitedHealth Group Inc. The company is still searching for a new leader following Angela Braly's departure last August. Cannon told analysts WellPoint's board is moving as quickly as possible, and they expect to reach a decision in this quarter.
WellPoint shares rose $1.03, or 1.6 percent, to close at $64.83 Wednesday. The company's stock dropped 8 percent in 2012 but has risen about 6 percent so far this year.