Sunday, July 20, 2014

Health Insurance Innovations ( Nasdaq - HIIQ ) -- Expands its Platform

Health Insurance Innovations (HIIQ $12.75) is a leading provider of short term medical plans.  It provides ancillary products, as well, including hospital indemnity, pharmacy, vision, and dental insurance.  A growing percentage of customers bundle more than one plan.  The company works with several major carriers like ING, Cigna, Nationwide, and U.S. Fire.  Those companies provide the actual underwriting.  Health Insurance Innovation works with them to design the products.  Primarily, though, it acquires the customers through its own agents and an external network of more than 100 call centers.  A variety of marketing techniques drive business to those sites.  The short term policies offered by the company are significantly less expensive than comparable Obamacare plans (excluding subsidies).  They normally extend for 6-11 months, making them exempt from the new law's stipulations regarding pre-existing conditions and guaranteed issue.  For healthy individuals, they provide attractive coverage because the same services are provided and the price is much lower, often as much as 40%-50%.  In the past a lot of prospective customers were reluctant to buy short term medical plans because they couldn't be renewed automatically.  That's still the case.  But under the new law if a chronic disease is acquired an individual can switch to an Obamacare policy, ensuring treatment.  Most of Health Insurance Innovation's customers are young and healthy.  Fewer than 5% are prevented from renewing due to health factors.  Those people now can buy a guaranteed issue plan on an exchange, eliminating that small risk.  Business has accelerated during the first half of 2014 as a result.

A recent acquisition will broaden Health Insurance Innovations' potential market.  The company has been working with Health Pocket, the new unit, for the past six months.  Much of the acceleration in growth the company has enjoyed is due to that relationship.  Health Pocket offers a database for consumers that contains virtually every health insurance policy for sale in the United States.  An easy to use interface enables potential buyers to search by key variables including price, deductibles, doctors, disease coverage, and geography.  Once a prospect narrows down his choices a toll free number appears, directing him to an agent who can explain the details and determine the right deal.  A click to chat option is available, as well.  The percentage of callers who purchase is much greater compared to callers responding to banner ads and other general promotions.  Growth in new business has topped 100% at Health Insurance Innovations over the past two quarters, driven in part by Health Pocket's high quality sales leads.  That trend in the short term medical segment appears likely to continue.

The Health Pocket deal will open up the Medicare Advantage and Small Group segments, as well.  Health Pocket currently is diverting those leads to other companies, earning a small commission.  Health Insurance Innovations plans to steer them to its own agents and affiliated call centers, sharply raising revenue per policy.  Customers who are best served by Obamacare plans, due either to the likelihood of subsidies or other factors, will be directed to the appropriate exchange.  Those deals will generate a modest commission.  The Medicare Advantage and Small Group markets each are at least 500% larger than the short term medical segment.  Revenue could exceed the short term business in 2-3 years, perhaps sooner.  Margins promise to be similar.

Profitability is likely to widen as volume expands.  In-house agents and external call centers earn commissions on the business they close.  Those expenses are variable.  But Health Insurance Innovation's technology platform is highly scalable.  Those costs are likely to increase far less rapidly than sales.

Our 2014 estimates assume that consolidation expenses will temporarily impact profits.  Some non-recurring costs are inevitable as the two companies officially join forces.  Health Insurance Innovations already is spending heavily on sales and marketing.  Those efforts might be reorganized to put some weight behind the Medicare Advantage and Small Group initiatives.  But the total amount spent may not expand too much.  If they do, earnings may finish below our forecast of $.40 a share.  (Prior to the merger we had estimated income of $.55 a share on $80 million in sales.)

Next year sales could advance 67% to $150 million to provide income of $.95 a share.  New business may climb at an even faster pace.  Revenue is recognized on a month to month basis, though, so even if a mountain of policies is written the recognition of that business will be spread out.  Medicare Advantage and Small Group plans ordinarily renew at a higher rate than short term policies, creating the potential for additional leverage down the road.  In 2-3 years revenues could attain $250-$300 million to yield income of $2.05-$2.65 a share.  Applying a P/E multiple of 20x to the midpoint of that range suggests a target price of $47.00 a share, potential appreciation of 265% from the current quote.

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