MINNETONKA, Minnesota (AP) – UnitedHealth Optum continues to perform better, and after the nation’s largest insurer posted better-than-expected third-quarter numbers for the third time, it raised its forecast for 2021.
UnitedHealth operates UnitedHealthcare, a health insurance business that serves over 48 million people, mostly in the United States. Its Optum segment also operates one of the largest pharmacy benefit management operations in the country, as well as a growing number of clinics, emergency centers and surgery.
In the three months ended September 30, UnitedHealth earned $ 4.09 billion, or $ 4.28 per share. Excluding one-off items, earnings per share were $ 4.52, or 11 cents more than Wall Street predicted, according to an expected study by Zacks Investment Research.
It was also well above the $ 3.17 billion profit that Minnetonka, Minnesota, reported last year.
Shares rose 2% in premarket Thursday.
UnitedHealth Group Inc. is the first insurance company to report earnings on a quarterly basis, and analysts see this as a benchmark for the sector.
Revenue rose to $ 72.34 billion from $ 65.12 billion, which also exceeded the $ 71.54 billion expected by industry analysts.
In the Optum division, revenue rose to $ 39.8 billion from $ 35.4 billion. Revenue per customer grew by 30% and served 99 million people by the end of the quarter. A year earlier, it served 98 million people.
Optum’s prescription business continues to thrive. OptumRx-adjusted prescriptions rose 6% as they served more people and as healthcare delivery and pharmaceutical use continued to recover over the past year.
The health insurance industry appears to have emerged from the pandemic following the emergence of vaccines in early 2021, and UnitedHealth believed it would see the benefits of returning to normal in the second half of this year.
However, by mid-July, the situation became unclear as the delta variant began to spread, causing a new spike in cases and hospitalizations that increased in July and August. Hospitals have again postponed thousands of routine or non-urgent procedures so that staff can focus on treating COVID-19 patients.
Over the past month, the number of cases again began to decline rapidly.
UnitedHealth now projects adjusted earnings for the year in the range of $ 18.65 to $ 18.90 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet are expecting $ 18.75 per share.
UnitedHealth said the forecast includes potential damage of $ 1.80 per share from the pandemic.