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UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH - Analyst Report) reported its third-quarter 2013 earnings of $1.53 per share, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny. Earnings, however, grew 2.0% year over year.
The year-over-year earnings growth came on the back of higher revenues and increased enrollment. Despite the close miss, results reflected a solid performance from its health benefits business along with strong growth from Optum segment. 
Net income was up 0.8% year over year to $1.57 billion.
UnitedHealth posted revenues of $30.6 billion, up 12.1% year over year but down from the Zacks Consensus Estimate  of $30.9 billion. The year-over-year increase was an outcome of broad-based organic growth and business expansion in both health care benefits and health care services.
The quarter saw a spike in medical care ratio which increased 160 basis points year over year to 80.6%. The increase was driven by government reductions in Medicare Advantage program funding, a greater mix of revenues from government benefit offerings and lower levels of reserve development in the current year.
Total operating cost came in at $28.0 billion up 13.4% year over year. The increase was primarily driven by higher medical cost. 
Segment Performance
During the reported quarter, UnitedHealth’s health benefits segment – UnitedHealthcare – witnessed revenue growth of 11.0% year over year to $28.4 billion. Earnings from operations of $2.0 decreased 9.1% year over year.
Revenue from the UnitedHealth’s other segment – the health services segment branded as Optum – improved 33.3% to $9.6 billion on a year-over-year basis. Earnings from operations, surged 53.9% year over year to $628 million. Continued progress on Optum’s plan to accelerate growth and improve margins and productivity by strengthening integration and business alignment aided the improvement.
Membership Enrollment
UnitedHealth ended the quarter with 45.275 million members, up 8.730 million members year-over-year.
Capital Position
UnitedHealth generated cash flows from operations of $3.4 billion up 9.7% year over year.
The company ended the quarter with debt to equity ratio of 34.4% down 20 basis points year over year. 
Shareholder’s equity was $32.01 billion up from $31.2 billion as of Dec 31, 2012.
Share Repurchases and Dividend
UnitedHealth Group spent $1.0 billion to buyback 14 million shares in the quarter. The company paid $280 million in dividends to shareholders. 
2013 Guidance Update
UnitedHealth pulled up the lower range of its earlier 2013 EPS forecast. It now expects earnings per share of $5.40 to $5.50. The company reiterated its 2013 revenue expectation of $122 billion.  
UnitedHealth carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other players WellPoint Inc. (WLP - Analyst Report) with Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Aetna Inc. (AET - Analyst Report) and Humana Inc. (HUM - Analyst Report), both with Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), are also expected to release their third quarter earnings shortly.   

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