Some health insurers have been benefiting from a slowing growth rate in health care use, contributing to a stronger performance for the companies as they have reported improved earnings recently. Industry analysts are looking for any signs that the use rate is accelerating, which would result in a greater percentage of premiums going to pay medical claims.

Humana Inc. reported a slower rate of growth in health care use for its employer-based insurance plans in the first quarter. The company said Monday its first-quarter earnings also benefited by 31 cents per share because claims leftover from previous quarters came in lower than expected.

In a conference call with analysts, Humana Chief Operating Office Jim Murray discussed health care use and whether there are signs of an upswing in use.

QUESTION: I was hoping you could provide us some more detail on the utilization levels as far as what that meant for bed days, if it was more pronounced in any certain products or geographies, and if there's been any incremental uptick in the last two months trending differently from the first two months of the year.

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