UnitedHealth Group boosts outlook as more seek health care



a sign on the side of a road: A portion of the UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s campus in Minnetonka is shown in 2012 file photo.


© Star Tribune/Star Tribune/Jim Mone/Star Tribune/TNS
A portion of the UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s campus in Minnetonka is shown in 2012 file photo.

Third-quarter profit beat expectations at UnitedHealth Group as the nation’s largest insurer saw demand for health care return closer to normal levels after the COVID-19 pandemic drove widespread delays in the spring.

In an earnings release Wednesday morning, the Minnetonka-based health care giant boosted its earnings outlook for the year and talked up growth prospects for its large business selling Medicare Advantage health plans to seniors.

But enrollment in commercial coverage purchased by employers slipped by about 420,000 people, or 2%, between the ends of June and September. The company’s UnitedHealthcare division for health insurance has offered premium rebates, cost-sharing waivers and grace periods on payments to keep employers and other customers in the market for coverage despite the pandemic’s economic downturn.

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“The health system continued to recover,” said David Wichmann, the UnitedHealth Group chief executive, in a statement.

In the third quarter, UnitedHealth Group reported a profit of $3.17 billion on revenue of $65.12 billion. Earnings were off by about 10% compared with the year-ago quarter and far shy of the company’s huge profit in the second quarter, when the pandemic stopped many from seeking care.

After adjusting for one-time items, earnings per share of $3.51 far surpassed the $3.09 expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

UnitedHealth Group boosted guidance for adjusted earnings per share to between $16.50 and $16.75, up from the range of $16.25 to $16.55 per share.

UnitedHealth Group is Minnesota’s largest company by revenue, with more than 320,000 employees worldwide. In addition to the UnitedHealthcare insurance business, which provides coverage to about 43 million people in the U.S., the company operates a fast-growing division for health care services called Optum.

Earlier this month, UnitedHealthcare announced the largest expansion of its service area for Medicare Advantage health plans in five years.

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck

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