Despite concerned speculation over an early retirement program implemented by health insurer Aetna earlier this year, the company’s perfomance exceeded expectations enough to raise its 2011 earnings forecast this week. In large part, this positive outlook is due to a drop in health care claims and costs: leftover claims, mostly from the second quarter, came in lower than expected in Q3, and health care costs fell 5 percent, largely because of less prevalent use. Analysts suggest that lower participation in health care services is common after a recession, when consumers are more likely to postpone non-crucial care to save money on co-pays and deductibles. Nevertheless, Aetna’s CFO, Joseph M. Zubretsky, said they do expect health care usage to pick up in 2012.

Read the story.