(Adds details on Medicare Advantage business, estimates)
Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S. health insurer Humana Inc reported a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday, due to strength in its Medicare Advantage business that sells healthcare plans to the elderly and the disabled.
The company said individual Medicare Advantage memberships rose about a percent to 2.86 million, as of Dec. 31, while Group Medicare Advantage membership climbed 24 percent to 441,400.
The program accounts for about one-third of Medicare members in the United States, making it an important growth business for private insurers that are facing changes in their business as Republicans seek to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Humana forecast 2018 adjusted earnings of $13.50-$14.00 per share, ahead of analysts' average estimate of $12.87 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net profit was $184 million, or $1.29 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $401 million, or $2.68 per share, a year earlier. (http://bit.ly/2FUl4BB)
Excluding items, the company earned $2.06 per share, above analysts' average estimate of $2.00.
Total revenue rose 2 percent to $13.19 billion. (Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto)