Humana profits rise on lower medical costs

NEW YORK (Reuters) —Health insurer Humana Inc. posted a sharply higher third-quarter profit that blew past Wall Street targets on Monday, helped by lower medical costs, and it projected growth in its Medicare plans next year.

 Humana, which is highly dependent on its Medicare plans for the elderly, also raised its full-year earnings forecast.

The stock has been a more popular pick than those of rivals this year. Investors have become more comfortable with the outlook for Medicare after the passage of the U.S. health care reform law, while changes affecting plans for individuals and small businesses are keeping Wall Street on edge.