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UnitedHealth hikes profit forecast after big 2Q

UnitedHealth hikes profit forecast after big 2Q

ECONOMIC NEWS

UnitedHealth hikes profit forecast after big 2Q


UnitedHealth raised profit expectations for the year after second quarter earnings climbed almost 13%, and the nation’s largest health insurer continued expanding beyond its core business and into care delivery.

A nearly 12% jump in revenue from the company’s pharmacy benefit management operation helped UnitedHealth beat Wall Street expectations for the recently completed quarter. UnitedHealth’s OptumRx business added more customers and moved deeper into specialty services like the infusion of drugs at patient homes.

UnitedHealth runs one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit managers in OptumRx, which is part of an Optum business segment that also manages physician offices and surgery centers and provides technology support. Operating earnings from Optum, which is more profitable than the company’s health insurance business, rose 14% to $2.1 billion in the quarter.

Earnings from the still-larger health insurance side also grew 12%, helped by gains from the company’s Medicare and retirement business.

Overall, UnitedHealth said Thursday that it 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 earnings per share expectations Thursday to between $14.70 and $14.90 from an April forecast for $14.50 to $14.75.

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

UnitedHealth’s insurance business covers nearly 50 million people internationally and still brings in most of the company’s revenue. But UnitedHealth also has been feeding Optum with acquisitions as the company adjusts to a big shift in how care is delivered and covered.

Insurers and employers that provide coverage are pushing deeper into managing or providing patient care in order to cut costs and make sure people are getting good care. They’re focusing more on maintaining health, especially for patients with chronic conditions, instead of waiting to pay claims once someone becomes sick.

More than a year ago, UnitedHealth announced a $5 billion deal to buy DaVita Medical Group and its hundreds of clinics. The company finally completed that deal in June, too late to have much of an impact on the quarter.

Shares of UnitedHealth rose slightly to $266.70 Thursday before the opening bell.

The stock has had an uncharacteristically bumpy journey this year. Shares 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.

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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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