NU Online News Service, Jan. 22, 2004, 12:38 p.m. EST – A lull in medical claims costs helped the performance of UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn., during the fourth quarter of 2003.[@@]

The company’s United Healthcare managed care unit is reporting $523 million in operating profits for the quarter on $6.5 billion in revenue, up from $382 million in operating profits on $5.8 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2002.

The company as a whole ended the quarter providing or administering health coverage for 18.7 million people, up from 17.7 million people a year earlier. Average commercial revenue per commercial health plan member increased 7.5%, to $492.

“Medical cost trends continued to moderate due to a variety of economic and market conditions coupled with effective health care management and coordinated services,” UnitedHealth says.

Thanks to acquisitions and strong results at United Healthcare and other units, UnitedHealth revenue increased to $7.5 billion in the fourth quarter, from $6.7 billion.

Total net income climbed to $507 million, from $379 million.