Humana shares jumped more than 6 percent Wednesday morning after the company said that third-quarter results were bolstered by strong interest in its insurance plans among older Americans.
Based on the strong third quarter, the Louisville-based insurer also raised its earnings expectations for the year.
CEO Bruce Broussard told investors in an earnings call that the company expects to gain even more customers next year and is projected to increase earnings above the executives’ long-term targets.
CFO Brian Kane told investors that the health insurance market for older Americans is growing — and may grow faster next year than this year — and that anecdotal data suggests that Humana is taking market share from competitors.
Humana said in its earnings report that third-quarter revenue, at $14.2 billion, rose 7 percent from a year ago, primarily from higher premiums collected from Medicare Advantage customers.
Medicare is the traditional health care program for older customers, managed by the federal government. With Medicare Advantage, the benefits are provided through a private health insurer.
Humana said it served about three million individual MA customers in the third quarter, up 7 percent from a year earlier — though enrollment in the company’s stand-alone prescription drug plan, at about 5 million, fell 5 percent.
Total operating expenses, at $13.2 billion, rose 6.6 percent compared to the third quarter of 2017.
Net income rose 27.3 percent, to $644 million. The company’s tax bill declined by 11.3 percent, or $34 million, to $266 million. Diluted earnings per share, at $4.65, rose 35.2 percent.
Broussard said that the company has taken lots of steps to make its offerings more attractive for customers, including keeping premiums steady: 93 percent of customers will get either a lower premium or see no change next year, and more than half of customers will have a zero-dollar premium plan.
Based on the strong third-quarter results, Humana increased its per-share earnings expectations for the year to about $14.40, up 25 cents from its prior forecast.
Humana’s shares traded at about $353 around noon, up nearly 6.5 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average was up about 1.3 percent.