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Aetna says private Medicare sign-ups better than expected

(Reuters) - Aetna Inc said on Tuesday that based on sign-ups for private Medicare, its first-quarter membership for these health plans for seniors would be "meaningfully better" than previously projected.

The company, the nation's third-largest insurer, said it now expects full year 2014 operating revenue of at least $54 billion compared with its previous projection of about $53 billion.

Aetna, which made the remarks ahead of Chief Executive Officer Mark Bertolini's presentation at the J.P. Morgan healthcare conference on Wednesday morning, reaffirmed the company's 2014 operating earnings per share projection of at least $6.25 per share.

Aetna and competitors UnitedHealth Group Inc and Humana Inc have been forecasting that cuts to reimbursement for private Medicare, called Medicare Advantage, would make the program challenging for them this year.

Aetna shares rose to $71.48 in after-hours trading after closing at $71.04 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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