If giant health benefits company WellPoint (NYSE:WLP) can keep this up, shareholders won't be feeling any pain. But then, that's the real question, isn't it? Can large players like WellPoint, UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), Aetna (NYSE:AET), and CIGNA (NYSE:CI) all continue to keep a lid on costs, recruit new enrollees, and resist the urge to start price wars?

For WellPoint at least, so far, so good. Total reported revenue increased almost 68% for the fourth quarter, with operating revenue up a similar amount and comparable-basis revenue up almost 6%. (That's adjusting for the impact of the Anthem-WellPoint merger in late November of 2004.) Premium revenue was strong (up more than 5% on a comparable basis) and expense growth was not out of line.

Other metrics of note also looked favorable. Enrollment was up 22% as reported, and up more than 4% on an organic basis. Medical costs also looked pretty good, with the rolling 12-month trend dipping below 8.5%.

There's certainly plenty to like about WellPoint. It's got the most customers of any company in the business, which gives it a great deal of clout with both customers (be they individuals or companies) and health-care providers. In addition, its relationship with Blue Cross Blue Shield gives it an advantage in brand value and an exceptional provider network. Last but not least, I think you can at least float the argument that larger companies are less likely to endanger their own near-monopolies with price competition, so that may not be quite the threat it once was.

If you think that WellPoint can continue to grow its cash flow by low- to mid-teen percentages, you should seriously consider owning this stock. While I consider rival UnitedHealth a fine company (same goes for smaller rival Coventry (NYSE:CVH)), I just see more upside in the numbers with WellPoint. Numbers aren't everything, though, so be sure to do your own careful due diligence before deciding for yourself.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).