Aetna Inc (AET.N) on Tuesday forecast higher operating earnings in 2013 and revenue growth of 9 percent as the health insurer's medical plans add more members.
Aetna said it expects to earn $5.40 a share in operating profit next year, up from an expected $5.10 a share in 2012.
The Hartford, Connecticut, company made the disclosure the day before a Wednesday meeting with investors and analysts in New York.
The third-largest U.S. health insurer is on the front lines of a national healthcare overhaul that will be largely in place in 2014.
The company said its membership will grow to about 18.4 million by the end of 2013 from about 18.2 million this year. It expects medical membership to remain flat in the first quarter of 2013 before expanding.
Its 2012 earnings are expected to be down from 2011 because of higher healthcare costs and lower reimbursements from the government for its Medicare insurance for the elderly and Medicaid insurance for the poor.
In October, Aetna said it expected 2013 earnings to improve over 2012 but did not give specific numbers.
Aetna Chief Financial Officer Joseph Zubretsky said at the time that he was concerned about the "fiscal cliff," whose major elements include broad spending reductions and tax cuts that expire at the end of this year. Economists have warned that the economy could slip back into recession.
Aetna shares were up 1.7 percent in after-hours trading on Tuesday, compared with a close of $44.48 on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Caroline Humer in New York and Susan Kelly in Chicago; editing by Bernard Orr and Matthew Lewis)