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Health insurer Centene's profit surges as it adds more members

(Adds details)

April 24 (Reuters) - Centene Corp on Tuesday reported a quarterly profit that more than doubled, as it added more members to its health insurance plans, including its Obamacare business, as well as lower costs in its Medicaid unit.

Centene, which primarily focuses on government-sponsored health plans, said net earnings rose to $338 million, or $1.91 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31 from $132 million, or 79 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $2.17 per share.

Total revenue rose 12.5 percent to $13.19 billion, but was in line with estimates.

The company's health benefits ratio, or the amount it spends on medical claims compared with its income from premiums, improved to 84.3 percent in the quarter from 87.6 percent a year earlier.

The ratio is a closely watched measure by investors for increased medical costs and usage. (Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)