UnitedHealth hikes profit forecast after big 2Q

UnitedHealth is raising its profit expectations for the year after earnings rose almost 13% in the second quarter, topping most expectations.

Growing Medicare Advantage coverage and an Optum business that runs prescription drug plans as well as doctor clinics and surgery centers helped the nation’s largest health insurer.

UnitedHealth earned $3.29 billion in the quarter. Earnings adjusted for one-time events totaled $3.60 per share, which is 14 cents better than expected, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue grew 8% to $60.6 billion, about in line with estimates.

UnitedHealth Group Inc., based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, raised its full year, per share earnings expectations Thursday from $14.50 to $14.75, to between $14.70 and $14.90 per share.

Analysts expect full-year earnings of $14.70 per share, according to FactSet.

UnitedHealth’s insurance business covers nearly 50 million people internationally, and the company also has been stoking growth in its Optum segment for several years now.

UnitedHealth has been feeding Optum with acquisitions as insurers and other health care entities push deeper into managing or providing patient care in order to cut costs and improve quality. That’s a big shift that involves trying to keep people healthy instead of waiting to pay claims after they seek care. More than a year ago, the company announced a $5 billion deal to buy DaVita Medical Group and its hundreds of clinics.

The company said in June that it had completed that deal.

Operating earnings from Optum, which is more profitable than the company’s health insurance business, rose 14% to $2.1 billion in the quarter.

On the insurance side, revenue from the company’s Medicare and retirement business grew more than 10% to about $21 billion as the Medicare Advantage business added 400,00 members.

Company shares edged up almost 2% before the opening bell.

UnitedHealth shares have had an uncharacteristically bumpy journey this year. They slumped earlier this year amid worries about government scrutiny of drug pricing and Democratic presidential candidate calls for a “Medicare for All” plan that could replace private coverage. But the stock rallied this month after President Donald Trump ended a plan to change how rebates for prescription drugs are administered.

Shares have climbed about 7% so far this year, compared with a 17% increase for the Dow.


Portions of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on UNH at https://www.zacks.com/ap/UNH

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