MINNETONKA, Minn. (AP) -- UnitedHealth Group beat first-quarter expectations and raised its 2019 forecast, as the nation's largest insurer increased Medicare coverage and got another boost from its growing business outside health insurance.
UnitedHealth now expects 2019 adjusted earnings to range between $14.50 and $14.75 per share after reaffirming in January a forecast for $14.40 to $14.70 per share.
Analysts expect, on average, earnings of $14.65 per share, according to FactSet.
In the first quarter, revenue from the insurer's Medicare and retirement business jumped nearly 12%, as Medicare Advantage enrollment grew by around 400,000 people. UnitedHealth is the nation's largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans, which are privately run versions of the federally funded Medicare coverage program for people over age 65.
UnitedHealth Group Inc., based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, also saw revenue grow nearly 12% to $26.4 billion from its Optum segment, which runs pharmacy benefits management and manages physician clinics among other things. UnitedHealth covers nearly 50 million people internationally as the largest U.S. health insurer, but it also has been stoking growth in its Optum segment for several years now.
Overall, UnitedHealth earnings jumped 22% to $3.47 billion in the quarter. Earnings, adjusted for amortization costs, were $3.73 per share, topping Wall Street estimates by 13 cents, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.
Total revenue climbed about 9% to $60.31 billion, also edging out expectations.
UnitedHealth Group, a component of the Dow Jones industrial average, is the first health insurer to release results every quarter. Many analysts and investors see it as a bellwether for the sector.