|WellChoice Primary Operating Subsidiary Upgraded by Standard & Poor's; Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield Receives 'A' Rating With Stable Outlook|
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 5, 2004--WellChoice, Inc. (NYSE:WC) announced today that Standard and Poor's (S&P), one of the nation's leading financial rating agencies, raised the financial strength and counterparty credit rating of Empire HealthChoice Assurance, Inc., d/b/a Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, WellChoice's primary operating subsidiary, to an "A" rating. The outlook is stable.
According to S&P the rating reflects WellChoice's "continued very strong earnings performance, capitalization, and liquidity as well as its conservative investment practices and good enrollment growth. Partially offsetting these positive factors is Empire's competitive and geographically concentrated operating environment." This upgrade by S&P is the fourth upgrade awarded the insurer since 1999.
WellChoice, Inc. is the parent company of the largest health insurer in the State of New York based on PPO and HMO membership. WellChoice, through its Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield subsidiaries, has the exclusive right to use the Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and marks in 10 downstate New York counties and one or both of these names and marks in selected counties in upstate New York. WellChoice offers a broad portfolio of products, including managed care and traditional indemnity products, and has a broad customer base including large group, middle-market and small group, individual, and national accounts. Additional information on WellChoice can be found at www.wellchoice.com.
Some of the information contained in this press release is forward-looking, including statements relating to future financial or business results. Forward-looking information is based on management's estimates, assumptions and projections and is subject to significant uncertainties and other factors, many of which are beyond the company's control. Important risk factors could cause future results to differ materially from those estimated by management. Those risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to: our ability to accurately predict health care costs and to manage those costs through underwriting criteria, quality initiatives and medical management; product design and negotiation of favorable provider reimbursement rates; our ability to maintain or increase our premium rates; possible reductions in enrollment in our health insurance programs or changes in membership; the regional concentration of our business in the New York metropolitan area and the effects of economic downturns in that region or generally; future bio-terrorist activity or other potential public health epidemics; the impact of health care reform and other regulatory matters; the outcome of litigation; and the potential loss of our New York City account. For a more detailed discussion of these and other important factors that may materially affect WellChoice, please see the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the discussion of risk factors and historical results of operations and financial condition in its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2003, and its Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the three months ended March 31, 2004.
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SOURCE: WellChoice, Inc.