UnitedHealth Logged Steady Revenue Growth to Close 2021

UnitedHealth Group Inc.


UNH 1.46%

on Wednesday posted year-over-year earnings growth for the last three months of 2021, helped by higher revenue from premiums.

The healthcare and health-insurance giant based in Minnetonka, Minn., the first industry heavyweight to report year-end results, showed little sign of serious impact from costs tied to soaring levels of Covid-19 cases that the Omicron variant brought last month.

UnitedHealth’s profit rose to $4.07 billion, up from $2.21 billion in 2020’s fourth quarter. On a per-share basis after stripping out one-time items, earnings were $4.48, a rise from $2.52. Wall Street analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast adjusted earnings of $4.30 a share.

Revenue climbed to $73.74 billion, from $65.47 billion a year before. Most of that growth came from higher premiums, which rose to $57.55 billion, from $50.58 billion in the last quarter of 2020.

The medical-loss ratio, a closely watched measure of the proportion of premiums that go to medical care, was 84%, in line with expectations. At 83%, the full-year ratio was higher in 2021 than in 2020, in part due to rising Covid-19 treatment costs.

UnitedHealth affirmed  financial targets it offered in November for 2022, including for revenue of $317 billion to $320 billion and adjusted earnings of $21.10 a share to $21.60 a share. Both of those targets would be double-digit growth over 2021 results.

Shares were slightly higher in premarket trading after closing at $460.99 on Tuesday.

The company’s UnitedHealthcare insurance business saw revenue grow 12% in the fourth quarter to $56.4 billion. UnitedHealthcare added 2.2 million members last year, with growth in programs tied to government benefits, such as Medicare Advantage, driving much of the increase.

UnitedHealth’s Optum health-services arm notched 14% growth in the December-ending quarter, with revenue rising to $41.1 billion. Its tally of people served rose to 100 million in 2021, from 98 million a year earlier. The business’s revenue per customer was up by a third last year as Optum added more services such as in-home care.

Prescriptions filled by Optum Rx, the company’s pharmacy-care division, rose 4.4% last year.

Write to Matt Grossman at [email protected]

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