The company has added more than a million customers in its federally funded Medicare and Medicaid businesses since Dec. 31, bringing the total in the company’s public programs and seniors unit to 14.9 million, it said in a statement Tuesday announcing first-quarter results. It had a total medical membership of 49.3 million people, even after it left most of the Affordable Care Act public exchange programs.
Shares of the biggest publicly traded U.S. health insurer gained 1.7% to $170 at 6:58 a.m. in New York, before the markets opened. They’re up 31% in the last 12 months, as of Monday’s close.
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The company has been expanding in Medicare, where it offers private health plans for the elderly, and in Medicaid, where it helps states manage low-income individuals. Those businesses have proven to be more lucrative than Obamacare’s individual market, where UnitedHealth broadly retreated after offering plans on the health law’s exchanges in 34 states last year.
The trends in UnitedHealth’s government business will help boost profits. The Minnetonka, Minnesota-based company predicted that earnings for the full year, excluding some items, will be $9.65 to $9.85 a share. That’s well above the $9.51 projected by analysts, according to an average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg, and above the company’s January forecast.
First-quarter earnings excluding some items were $2.37 a share, topping the $2.17 average of analysts’ estimates.