FILE PHOTO: The logo for health insurance provider, Anthem, is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – U.S. health insurer Anthem Inc (ANTM.N) beat quarterly estimates for revenue on Wednesday, helped by the recent launch of its pharmacy benefits unit and higher premiums.

The second-largest U.S. health insurer stood by its full-year profit target even as it warned of uncertainty around the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rivals UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) and Centene Corp (CNC.N) reiterated their 2020 profit outlook even as they warned of increased medical costs in the second half of the year as Americans who have postponed elective care procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic resume them.

U.S. health insurers are expected to see a rise in near-term profit as health officials recommended postponing elective surgeries during the coronavirus outbreak to save beds for COVID-19 patients.

The company reported a 1.8% drop in quarterly profit on Wednesday, hurt by weaker sales in the unit that sells employer-sponsored health plans.

Its net income fell to $1.52 billion, or $5.94 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $1.55 billion, or $5.91 per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue rose to $29.62 billion from $24.67 billion. Analysts were expecting sales of $28.6 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Excluding items, the company earned $6.48 per share in the quarter ended March 2020, in line with estimates.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla and Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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