Why eHealth Inc. Shares Vaulted Higher

eHealth reports its preliminary fourth-quarter results and shares soar. Can shares head even higher or is it time to ring the register on this investment?

Jan 9, 2014 at 2:11PM

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 online private health insurance services for individuals, families, and small businesses, jumped as much as 25% after announcing its preliminary results for the fourth-quarter yesterday following the closing bell.

So what: For the fourth-quarter, eHealth anticipates reporting revenue in a range of $53 million to $55 million – significantly higher than the $49.2 million Wall Street consensus – as individual and family plan product demand increased approximately 50% year-over-year. However, due to much higher marketing costs, eHealth anticipates its fourth-quarter bottom-line will range from a loss of $0.03 to a profit of $0.04. For the full-year, eHealth is forecasting EPS in a range of $0.34-$0.41 which is more or less in-line with Wall Street's expectation of $0.36.

Now what: In spite of higher marketing costs negatively impacting eHealth's profitability, what we're seeing here is the direct result of the problems associated with the Healthcare.gov website. With the individual mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance by law in 2014 or face a penalty, and Obamacare's federally run health exchange, Healthcare.gov, running into numerous issues over its first two months, eHealth has turned into a big beneficiary. By offering a similar private insurance platform where individuals can compare plans, eHealth has very stealthily given consumers a way to circumvent Obamacare's exchanges while still gaining access to health insurance. As we approach the ever-important March 31 coverage cutoff date, I would anticipate eHealth's product demand will only increase.

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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

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