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UPDATE 1-Insurer WellCare doubles quarterly profit, hikes forecast

(Adds details on Medicare, Medicaid business, benefits ratio)

Oct 31 (Reuters) - WellCare Health Plans Inc more than doubled its profit in the third quarter and raised its full-year adjusted earnings forecast, helped by higher enrolments in its Medicare plans and lower costs in its Medicaid business.

The company said on Tuesday it expects 2017 adjusted profit in the range of $8.25 to $8.40 per share, up from its previous forecast of a range of $6.75 to $6.95.

The amount WellCare spent on claims out of the premiums it earned, a key measure of costs known as medical benefits ratio (MBR), fell in its Medicaid business. The lower the ratio, the better for the insurer.

The MBR improved to 86 percent in Medicaid, but deteriorated to 85.7 percent in the Medicare business.

WellCare added about 290,000 Medicaid memberships in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 on new businesses in Arizona and Nebraska.

Membership in the company's Medicare business jumped 45 percent, or 154,000 members, helped by its acquisition of Universal American.

WellCare's net income jumped to $171.6 million, or $3.82 per share, in the quarter, from $68.6 million, or $1.54 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $4.40 billion from $3.58 billion. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Sriraj Kalluvila)