UPDATE 2-Health insurer Humana's profit beats on lower-than-expected medical costs

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(Adds estimates, outlook, analyst comment)

July 28 (Reuters) - Humana Inc reported a quarterly profit that marginally beat analysts' estimates, helped in part by lower-than-expected medical costs despite a rebound in demand for non-urgent medical services put on hold due to the pandemic.

The company said on Wednesday it was maintaining its 2021 adjusted earnings per share outlook of between $21.25 and $21.75, while factoring in a $600 million coronavirus-related hit during the year.

Humana not raising its 2021 adjusted profit forecast fits with the sector trend as healthcare usage has rebounded, which is expected to continue in the second half of the year, but at a manageable pace given capacity constraints, BMO Capital Markets analyst Matt Borsch said.

Health insurer spending on medical claims fell during the height of the pandemic as patients and hospitals postponed non-urgent surgeries to soften the impact on the healthcare system, but benefits from deferred care were offset by higher spending on COVID-19 testing and treatment.

Nearly half of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to latest government data, and daily new COVID-19 cases ebbed in May and June.

Humana's consolidated benefit ratio, the percentage of premiums spent on claims, worsened to 85.8% in the quarter from 76.4% last year. Analysts were expecting 86.32%, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

The health insurer said it expects patient use of non-COVID services to run 2.5% below normal levels in the back half of the year.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned $6.89 per share, slightly above estimates of $6.82 per share. (Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shounak Dasgupta)

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