Economy

UnitedHealth Group profit up 26 percent

At the end of the third quarter, almost 45 million people in the US were covered by UnitedHealthcare health insurance, up about 2 percent from previous year.

Trump, who promised to repeal predecessor Barack Obama's signature the Affordable Care Act - so-called Obamacare - but failed to do so, last week signed an executive order to weaken it. Former CEO Stephen Hemsley now serves as executive chairman.

Wichmann said the company would work with the administration on the new products it had outlined, and that it already has 300,000 customers in association health plans.

UnitedHealth Group employs about 18,000 people in Minnesota.

UnitedHealth shares were trading at $204.28, up $11.08, or 5.8 percent.

For 2018, Mr. Wichmann said that earnings could be affected by an ACA tax on health plans that is slated to return next year after being suspended. UnitedHealthcare reported operating earnings of $2.4 billion in the third quarter, up 13.2 percent year over year. If the tax does return next year, the impact on earnings-per-share growth would be roughly 75 cents, the company said.

UnitedHealth has grown in recent months after it bought Surgical Care Affiliates Inc. and confirmed last month it was exploring the purchase of Banmedica, a health-care company in Chile, in what analysts estimate could be a $2.8 billion deal.

Boosting growth next year, the company also expects to increase the number of insurance customers and grow its Optum pharmacy and data businesses, adding to the benefits of its medical costs remaining within a targeted range. Across all lines, Optum generated $1.7 billion in earnings from operations, reflecting a 15.7 percent year-over-year increase. UnitedHealthcare, which is the largest MA payer with about one-quarter of the market, said its Medicare and retirement offerings increased revenues by 17% YOY to $16.3 billion. In addition, UnitedHealth reported net earnings of $2.5 billion in the third quarter of 2017, up from $2 billion in the third quarter of 2016.



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