UnitedHealth Group Inc., the nation's largest health insurer, issued a weaker-than-expected 2013 profit outlook amid worries about economic growth and negotiations over federal spending.
Ahead of its annual investor conference Tuesday, UnitedHealth said it expects earnings next year to be $5.25 to $5.50 a share. That's slightly below the average analyst estimate of $5.58 a share.
But the Minnetonka, Minn., company's projection of annual revenue of as much as $124 billion topped analysts' expectations of $119 billion.
UnitedHealth's shares slipped 39 cents to $53.53.
Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley had warned last month about the sluggish economy and potential cuts in government health programs affecting the insurer's business.
Last week, federal officials began issuing many of the rules for the massive insurance expansion set to begin in January 2014 under President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
Analysts expect UnitedHealth and other major insurers to benefit from the influx of millions of new customers even though companies must accept all applicants regardless of their medical conditions.