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UPDATE 2-Cigna posts second-quarter profit beat, raises 2019 earnings forecast

forecast@ (Compares with analyst estimates, adds background, details on quarter and share price)

Aug 1 (Reuters) - Health insurer Cigna Corp raised its forecast for full-year adjusted earnings on Thursday after posting a better-than-expected profit in the second quarter, helped by higher revenue from its pharmacy benefits unit and its commercial health plans.

Cigna Corp shares up 4.4 pct at $177.33 in light premarket trading.

As health insurers face regulatory uncertainties ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, Cigna hopes to rein in costs through its new pharmacy benefits business, which it bought through its $52 billion acquisition of Express Scripts.

The deal, which closed in December, was among major multi-billion acquisitions in the sector as pharmacy benefits managers and health insurers combined in an effort to stay competitive.

Adjusted revenue from Cigna's health services unit, which now includes the Express Scripts pharmacy benefits business, rose to $23.54 billion from $1.11 billion in the year-ago quarter.

The company's integrated medical business, which manages health plans for large and medium-sized corporations, and government-backed Medicare plans, posted adjusted revenue of $8.97 billion, a jump of 9.8%.

Cigna reported a 81.6% medical care ratio - the amount it spends on medical claims compared to income from premiums. That missed expectations of 80.20%, according to 5 analysts polled by Refinitiv IBES. A lower medical care ratio is considered better for health insurers.

Cigna now sees 2019 adjusted income from operations between $16.60 and $16.90 per share, from a prior range of $16.25 to $16.65 per share. Analysts were expecting $16.53 per share.

According to Refinitive IBES, Cigna earned $4.19 per share, excluding items, and beat the average Wall Street estimate of $3.74.

The company's net income rose to $1.41 billion, or $3.70 per share, in the quarter ended June 30, from $806 million, or $3.29 per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted revenue nearly tripled to $34.38 billion, beating estimates of $33.19 billion. (Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu and Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)