NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Aetna's ( AET) CFO Joseph Zubretsky told analysts during a conference call that the health insurer expects first quarter operating earnings to exceed Wall Street's 66 cents per share projection, according to Reuters.

Zubretsky said "this favorable variance is primarily related to a quarterly pattern of our internal forecast that differs from the consensus estimate," Reuters reports.

Zubretsky told analysts that Aetna's first quarter is so far in line with Aetna's expectations, while maintaining the company's full-year guidance of $2.55 per share to $2.65 per share, without items, according to Reuters. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are expecting earnings of $2.69 a share.

Aetna's uplifting first quarter guidance came as Democrats presented a final version of their health-care reform bill ahead of a vote set for Sunday.

Aetna stock has surged 4.4% to $34.70 in midday trading, while peer company stock Cigna ( CI) has jumped 4.8% to $37.60.

Humana ( HUM) is up 1.3% at $50.70. Humana more than doubled its lobbying expenses at the end of 2009, amid mounting health care reform debates in Washington, according to the Associated Press. Humana spent $1.3 million in the fourth quarter, an increase from $510,000 the year before, according to AP.

-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

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