Aetna, Hartford, Conn., raised its 2004 per-share earnings forecast for the second time in a month -- to between $6.60 and $6.75, from its earlier forecast of $6.25 to $6.35 -- citing membership gains and moderating medical costs. The insurer also raised its first-quarter estimate to between $1.68 and $1.73, from a February forecast of $1.50 to $1.55. Aetna struggled for several years with rising costs, pricing problems and strained provider relationships. Last year it settled a national class-action lawsuit with physicians. The company is rebuilding membership after shedding 6 million members since 1999 to regain profitability and expects to add 500,000 to 700,000 members in 2004. Aetna had about 13 million members on Dec. 31, 2003. It plans to release first-quarter financial results April 29. -- by Laura B. Benko
Aetna says 2004 profits looking up - and up again
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