UPDATE 2-Health insurer Anthem's profit beats as Medicaid memberships rise
(Adds details from conference call, stock price)
July 29 (Reuters) - Health insurer Anthem Inc, which plans to buy rival Cigna Corp for $54 billion, on Wednesday reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as its Medicaid and Medicare businesses grew.
Anthem raised its profit outlook for 2015 and expects health spending growth at the lower end of a range of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent this year.
Anthem said last week its combination with Cigna would create the No. 1 U.S. health insurer with 53 million members.
The move is part of an industry shift to manage costs through growth, and negotiate better prices with providers. In early July, No. 3 insurer Aetna Inc said it would buy rival Humana Inc.
Anthem, which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in more than a dozen states, said on Wednesday that spending on medical claims as a percentage of premiums fell to 82.1 percent from 82.7 percent a year ago. That is about 30 basis points better than Wall Street estimates, according to Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte.
Anthem shares were up 0.3 percent at $155.69. Anthem is the first insurer to report earnings since UnitedHealth Group Inc , which two weeks ago missed analysts' expectations for that key ratio, a harbinger of cost increases.
REVENUES TOP EXPECTATIONS Continuación...