Ho-hum. That's probably the best description of the stock performance delivered by Humana (NYSE:HUM) so far in 2019.

But the big health insurer had an opportunity to generate some excitement for investors when it announced third-quarter results before the market opened on Wednesday. And it did -- at least a little. Here are the highlights from Humana's Q3 update.

Mature couple signing up for health insurance.

Image Source: Getty Images.

By the numbers

Humana reported revenue of $16.24 billion in the third quarter, a 14% year-over-year jump. This narrowly beat the average analysts' estimate of $16.15 billion.

The company announced net income of $888 million, or $5.14 per share, in the third quarter, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). In the prior-year period, Humana's GAAP earnings were $901 million, or $4.65 per share.

Humana posted adjusted net income in the third quarter of $869 million, or $5.03 per share. The health insurer reported adjusted earnings of $922 million, or $4.58 per share, in the same quarter of 2018. The Q3 adjusted earnings figure handily beat the consensus analysts' adjusted earnings estimate of $4.58 per share.

Behind the numbers

The company's Q3 revenue increased primarily because of higher sales in its retail and healthcare services segments. Retail revenue in the third quarter totaled $14.1 million, up from the $12.1 million reported in the prior-year period. Healthcare services revenue rose 10% year over year to $6.6 million. The only segment that didn't deliver year-over-year revenue growth was the group and specialty segment, which saw sales decline slightly.

Humana's retail segment topped management's expectations. The company's Medicare Advantage business also performed exceptionally well, with membership jumping 17% to around 530,000 members.

Humana's bottom line benefited from this solid revenue growth. In addition, the company's productivity initiatives delivered operating cost efficiencies. Humana was also helped by the suspension of the health insurance industry fee (HIF) this year.

CEO Bruce Broussard liked what he saw in Q3. He stated:

Our results to date through the third quarter of 2019 are a testament to our focus on operational excellence and to the maturity of our strategy. We are seeing a number of positive outcomes as a result of our discipline and focus in these areas including improvements in quality as reflected in our strong Star scores and CMS program audit results, and the experience of our members, with increased net promoter scores. Highlighting this success is our significant individual Medicare Advantage membership growth which is now projected to exceed half a million members for the full year. Important too, we continue to reap the benefits of a highly engaged and dedicated workforce that makes these results possible.

Looking ahead

The company now projects full-year 2019 GAAP earnings per share (EPS) will be close to $18.32, up from its previous forecast of $17.97. Humana projects non-GAAP EPS will be around $17.75, up from its previous guidance of $17.60.

Healthcare stocks, including Humana, could experience more volatility next year. 2020 is a presidential election year, and several presidential candidates are proposing significant changes to the U.S. healthcare system. Humana's stock performance over the next year could hinge less on the company's actual performance and more on the prospects for how potential healthcare changes could impact it in the future.