Following these prepared remarks, we will open up the lines for a question-and-answer session with industry analysts. Joining Mike and Jim for the Q&A session will be Jim Murray, our Chief Operating Officer; and Chris Todoroff, Senior Vice President and General Counsel. We encourage the investing public and media to listen in to both management's prepared remarks and the related Q&A with analysts.This call is being recorded for replay purposes. That replay will be available on the Investor Relations page of the Humana's website, humana.com, later today. This call is also being simulcast via the Internet, along with a virtual slide presentation. For those of you who have company firewall issues and cannot access the live presentation, an Adobe version of the slides has been posted to the Investor Relations section of Humana's website. Before we begin our discussion, I need to cover some other items including our cautionary statement. Certain of the matters discussed in this conference call are forward-looking and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Actual results could differ materially. Investors are advised to read the detailed risk factors discussed in this morning's press release, as well as in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today's press release, our historical financial news releases and our filings with the SEC are all available on Humana's Investor Relations website. Finally, any references made to earnings per share or EPS in this morning's call refer to diluted earnings per common share. With that, I'll turn the call over to Mike McCallister. Michael B. McCallister Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us. Today, Humana announced third quarter earnings of $2.67 per share compared to $2.32 per share in the year-ago quarter. This quarter's favorable result was due to strong operating performance across multiple businesses. Consequently, and looking to the remainder of the year, we raised our 2011 earnings per share guidance this morning to a range of $8.35 to $8.40 from the previous range of $7.50 to $7.60. Along with these positive financial results, we also made good progress during the third quarter on a number of operational fronts. One, we received approval for our 2012 Medicare bids from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services with the related annual election period for Medicare beneficiaries now underway. We announced our intention to acquire 2 Medicare HMOs: Arcadian and MD Care. Updated Star ratings have been issued by CMS, and we experienced significant progress with 98% of Humana members now in plans that will qualify for quality bonus payments in 2013. Many of our Commercial members are now receiving our innovative HumanaVitality well-being rewards offering as part of their benefits package as they renew. We again returned capital to our stockholders through approximately 240 million in share repurchases in the third quarter, increasing the total year of 2011 to 500 million.
During the third quarter, we paid our first cash dividend to shareholders since 1993 and have followed that up with another cash dividend this month. I'll devote most of my remarks this morning to Humana's Medicare growth strategy from the standpoint of a long-term corporate sustainability, what I would call the most important chapter of our story. I'll also comment on our expectations for Medicare Advantage and PDP membership next year, and comment on our preliminary estimates for 2012 earnings per share.As we've done in past years, we will continue to enhance our value proposition for seniors by reinvesting the savings we've achieved through our 15 percent Solution into stable premiums and better benefits for Medicare beneficiaries. The results is the robust 2012 membership growth projections you see on the slide. We've essentially built a circle that is repeated and reinforced each 12 months that operates like this. One, we reset our Medicare margins in the bids we file each June. Two, we vigorously pursue the medical management and operating cost initiatives that make up the 15 percent Solution. Three, the progress we make is translated into attractive, highly competitive products for the following year. And then our growing size and scale in Medicare gives us operational advantages that make it increasingly difficult for competitors to match these products in the marketplace. Accordingly, we project our Medicare Advantage individual membership will increase by 145,000 to 155,000 net new members on the individual side in 2012, and by 55,000 to 75,000 net new members in Group Medicare. We're particularly pleased that our projections for Group Medicare include more than 50,000 members from our recent addition of the State of Texas Employee Retirement System. We're also projecting an increase in our standalone PDP membership of 500,000 to 600,000 net new members in 2012. Our PDP membership growth estimates are built substantially on the success of our co-branded offering with Wal-Mart. For the second year in a row, this innovative plan has the lowest monthly premium of any nationwide PDP offering.
In addition, again like last year, it has one price and one benefit structure nationwide, the first PDP plan in history with a strong competitive advantage. Among other things, this makes the plan easy to understand, the key element for Retail consumers especially in the PDP environment, where the number of plan choices runs into the hundreds.Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com