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Seniors Businesses Boost UnitedHeath's Quarterly Profit

Insurer UnitedHealth Group posted a better-than-expected 15 percent rise in quarterly profit Thursday, helped by its Medicaid and seniors businesses.

Third-quarter net earnings rose to $1.28 billion, or 95 cents per share, from $1.11 billion, or 80 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected 92 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 4 percent to to $18.68 billion.

UnitedHealth said its consolidated medical care ratio, a key measure of the percent of premiums spent on medical costs, improved to 79.5 percent, with stable or improved performance in every segment.

The ratio for UnitedHealthcare, which serves mid-size and small businesses, came in at 81.6 percent, slightly better than some analysts had expected.

UnitedHealth offered a 2008 profit forecast for the first time, saying it was targeting earnings of $3.95 to $4 per share.

Concerns persist about the performance of UnitedHealth, the largest US health insurer by market value, amid major changes in its management ranks.

Shares of the Minneapolis-based company have fallen about 10 percent this year, underperforming the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor index, a broad gauge of health-insurer stocks.

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