INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s third-quarter net income edged slightly lower as medical costs climbed and some health care use picked up, but the insurer's revenue grew and it raised its 2011 earnings forecast.

The Minnetonka, Minn., managed care company's medical claims paid rose 7 percent to $18.41 billion compared to last year's quarter, mainly due to price increases. UnitedHealth also said Tuesday it saw a "modest increase" in utilization trends for doctor's offices and outpatient care.

UnitedHealth and other insurers have turned in strong performances over the past few quarters in part because health care use has grown at a slower rate than they expected when they set premiums. Analysts say utilization growth tends to slow after a recession, as consumers pull back on their health care spending.

Insurers have said they expect use trends to return to normal levels later this year. Utilization typically picks up in the second half of the year after people pay off their deductibles and seek care before the deductibles renew in the new year.

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