UnitedHealth Group raises 2006 outlook

The UnitedHealth Group said its fourth quarter profits were up 18 percent as quarterly revenue rose from $12.05 billion from $10.51 billion. The company, which is the nation's second largest insurer, raised its earnings forecast for 2006, predicting earnings of between $2.85 to $2.90 a share. Wall Street wanted more; shares of UnitedHealth were down nearly two percent this morning.

Not all analysts are equally optimistic about the company's near-term future. Several note that its success will depend on how smoothly the Medicare Part D implementation goes. United Health Group placed a major bet on the benefit with its $9.2 billion purchase of PacifiCare last year, a move designed to bolster its Medicare business.

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