Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) — WellPoint Inc. said fourth-quarter profit plunged 68 percent as consumers concerned about Obamacare's impending changes flocked to doctors in higher numbers than anticipated.

The second-biggest U.S. medical insurer said it saw "higher utilization" in advance of Jan. 1, when the health law's new insurance plans debuted. Higher medical costs, along with a $160.7 million loss on the sale of two eyewear businesses, helped send earnings down, the Indianapolis-based company said in a statement. Earnings excluding one-time items met the average analyst estimate.

The health-care overhaul got off to a rocky start in October, when disruptions and delays made it difficult to sign up for coverage online. Millions of Americans then learned their existing insurance plans would be terminated because they didn't meet the law's new standards. While the Obama administration extended those policies for a year, people rushed to doctors before the new year, WellPoint said.

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