INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — WellPoint Inc. said a drop in expenses helped raise its first-quarter net income nearly 6 percent, as it became the third big health insurer in the past week to beat analyst expectations and raise its 2011 earnings forecast.

The Indianapolis company said Wednesday it received an enrollment boost from a health care overhaul provision that extends insurance coverage for adult children up to age 26, and it adjusted for another provision of the law expected to pinch profits.

"It was a very good quarter for us, and I think it shows folks that even in a post-reform environment, we can execute," Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt said.

The largest publicly traded health insurer based on enrollment earned $926.6 million, or $2.44 per share, in the three months that ended March 31. That's up from $876.8 million, or $1.96 per share, a year earlier.

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