Why eHealth Shares Vaulted Higher

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of eHealth (NASDAQ: EHTH  )  -- a provider of private market online health insurance services for individuals, families, and small businesses -- jumped as much as 17% after the company reported third-quarter earnings results.

So what: For the quarter, eHealth reported a 12% increase in year-over-year revenue to $42 million as adjusted earnings per share fell slightly to $0.08 from $0.09 from the previous year. By comparison, Wall Street had been looking for EPS of $0.08 on revenue of $40.5 million. Membership figures, however, saw a large spike to 1,147,100 participants at the end of the quarter, a 24% increase from last year. Medicare membership increased by 76% while estimated individual and family plan membership -- which accounts for the lion's share of its 1.15 million members -- rose 10%. The company also reaffirmed its full-year EPS forecast of $0.61-$0.71 which fell in line with expectations.

Now what: If you're scratching your head and looking for a reason why eHealth would be up so strongly after what looks like a rather ho-hum report, there are two. One is made clear in the report: its membership growth figures. Although I'm a bit disappointed with the year-on-year drop in EPS, the 24% boost in membership certainly bodes well for strong earnings growth in the future. The second factor is more of an intangible: the innumerable glitches thus far of Obamacare's federal health insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov. eHealth has been running a private online platform for years, so it could benefit from displaced insurance seekers in a big way as long as these glitches continue. I'd certainly say eHealth is worth adding to your watchlist.

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