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April 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Health insurer Humana Inc beat quarterly profit estimates and stuck to its full-year forecast on Wednesday, benefiting from more members paying higher premiums for its government-backed Medicare plans.
Sales at its retail unit, which includes Medicare plans offered to people older than 65 or those with disabilities, rose 19.6% to $16.76 billion in the first quarter as it added 404,800 more members, bringing the total to 3.8 million.
The insurer said a rise in pharmacy costs after it allowed early prescription refills for members helped offset a drop in healthcare spending in the second half of March as members and healthcare providers deferred non-essential procedures.
Its consolidated benefit ratio, the percentage of premiums spent on claims, improved to 85.1% in the quarter from 86.2% last year, beating consensus estimates of 85.79%.
Humana continues to expect full-year adjusted profit to be in the range of $18.25 to $18.75, the mid-point of which is above Street estimates of $18.44.
Net income fell to $473 million, or $3.56 per share, in the quarter, from $746 million, or $4.16 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, it earned $5.40 per share, beating the analysts’ average estimate of $4.68 per share, according to Refinitiv data.
Total revenue rose 17.6% to $18.94 billion, above estimates of $18.47 billion and the company said the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak was not material during the quarter. (Reporting by Trisha Roy and Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru Editing by Supriya Kurane and Arun Koyyur)