The nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., reported a 23% increase in third-quarter profit on the strength of continued growth in its Medicare and Medicaid businesses.
The Minnetonka, Minn., company raised its full-year earnings forecast and said overall medical costs among its customers remained largely in check. UnitedHealth is the first major health insurer to report third-quarter results, and it often sets the tone for the industry.
UnitedHealth said net income for the quarter ending Sept. 30 was $1.56 billion, or $1.50 a share, compared with $1.27 billion, or $1.17 a share, for the same period a year ago. Revenue in the quarter grew 8% to $27.3 billion.
The company boosted its 2012 outlook to $5.20 to $5.25 a share, up from $4.90 to $5 previously. Shares of UnitedHealth were up 12 cents to $57.61 in midday trading Tuesday.
UnitedHealth is the largest U.S. health insurer with 36.5 million members. Like many competitors, UnitedHealth is finding much of its growth from government health programs.
In the last year, the company said it added more than 400,000 Medicare Advantage customers through internal growth and acquisitions. Medicaid enrollment grew by about 385,000 in the last year, the company said.
But UnitedHealth is also looking beyond the U.S. market for new customers. Last week, it agreed to acquire 90% of Amil Participacoes SA, Brazil’s largest healthcare company, for about $4.3 billion, after certain tax benefits.
Follow Chad Terhune on Twitter