UnitedHealth 3Q profit rises 13 pct, tops estimates

Health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc. said Tuesday results at its government and services businesses were strong in the third quarter, and its profit rose 13 percent to top Wall Street estimates.

The Minnetonka, Minn., company, said it earned $1.04 billion, or 89 cents per share, compared with $920 million, or 75 cents per share, a year ago. Analysts expected 76 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $21.7 billion, ahead of Wall Street's estimate of $21.56 billion. The company said it lost about 1.7 million commercial members from last year due to high unemployment, but health and wellness programs like Ovations and OptumHealth posted strong growth, as did the AmeriChoice business.

UnitedHealth is seen by many analysts as a bellwether for the managed care sector. It is the largest U.S. health insurer by revenue, and the first to report earnings each quarter.

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Revenue for Ovations, which provides health and wellness services to people over 50, rose 19 percent to $7.9 billion, and AmeriChoice revenue rose 29 percent to $2.1 billion. Total public and senior enrollment rose to 7.2 million from 6.3 million.

However, commercial enrollment fell more than 6 percent, to 24.8 million, due to high unemployment. The company reported a similar decline in the second quarter. Revenue at the UnitedHealthcare business fell 3 percent to $10.13 billion.

The company says it spent 82 percent of its premium dollars on medical care during the quarter.

For the full year, UnitedHealth said it expects to earn $3.15 per share, at the high end of its previous guidance. Analysts expect $3.09 per share, on average.