Shares of health insurance giant Humana (HUM) - Get Report  rose on Wednesday after the company reported third-quarter results that beat analysts' forecasts as it continued to attract new full-benefit member users to its platform, and also focused on streamlining costs.

The Louisville, Kentucky.-based healthcare insurance provider posted adjusted earnings of $869 million, or $5.03 a share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, vs. $922 million, or $4.58 a share, in the comparable year-earlier quarter. Analysts polled by FactSet had been expecting earnings of $4.58 a share. Revenue was $16.24 billion vs. $14.21 billion a year ago and ahead of the $16.15 billion forecast by analysts.

"Our results to date through the third quarter of 2019 are a testament to our focus on operational excellence and to the maturity of our strategy," Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said in a statement Wednesday. Highlighting this success is our significant individual Medicare Advantage membership growth, which is now projected to exceed half a million members for the full year."

U.S. healthcare providers have been under increasing scrutiny, particularly as the 2020 presidential election race heats up, with Democratic contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both making nationalizing healthcare among their primary platform promises. 

In a recent research note to clients, BMO Capital analyst Matt Borsch downgraded both Humana and UnitedHealth (UNH) - Get Report to market perform from outperform on expectations that the two were "more heavily tied" to Medicare Advantage, which could see lower profit margins and/or slower enrollment growth under a different administration.

While Borsch sees "continued bipartisan support" for the program regardless of who wins the election, there is "a greater risk of a shift to less favorable regulation" in the event President Donald Trump is not re-elected to a second term, the analyst said in his Sept. 30 note.

For full-year 2019, Humana said it now expects adjusted per-share earnings of approximately $17.75, and membership growth of roughly 530,000 members, up from a previous range of 480,000 to 500,000 members, representing growth of about 17%.

Shares of Humana were up 1.18%, or $3.47, to $298.21 a share in morning trading. They ended the trading day Tuesday down 0.77%, or $2.28 a share, at $294.75 on the New York Stock Exchange. 

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