Why UnitedHealth’s Second-Quarter Profits Weren’t Enough

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UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) reported second-quarter 2017 results before markets opened Tuesday morning. The health insurance and benefits management company reported adjusted diluted quarterly earnings per share (EPS) of $2.46 on revenue of $50.1 billion. In the same period a year ago, UnitedHealth reported EPS of $1.96 on revenue of $46.5 billion. Second-quarter results topped the consensus estimates for EPS of $2.38 on revenue of $50.06 billion.

The health-care giant raised its earnings outlook for the fiscal year on both a GAAP and non-GAAP basis. UnitedHealth raised its GAAP EPS estimate to a new range of $9.20 to $9.35 a share, from a range of $9.10 to $9.30. It lifted its adjusted EPS to a new range of $9.75 to $9.90 a share, from a prior range of $9.65 to $9.85.

The company did not change either its prior revenue estimate of about $200 billion for the year or its $12 billion estimate for operating cash flow.

Revenue from the company’s UnitedHealthcare division rose 8.6% year over year to $40.8 billion and revenue at its Optum benefits management division increased 9.9% to $22.7 billion.

The company said that its withdrawal from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual markets, combined with the 2017 health insurance tax deferral, reduced consolidated second-quarter revenue by about $1.8 billion and lowered the revenue growth rate by 4.5%. Second-quarter employer and individual revenue of $13 billion decreased $543 million year-over-year because of the effects of the previously disclosed individual market withdrawals and health insurance tax deferral.

Total enrollment numbers increased year over year to 49.47 million from 47.98 million. Commercial enrollments rose to 26.88 million from 26.11 million. Medicare and Medicaid enrollment increased to 15.08 million from 13.44 million, and international enrollment increased to 4.12 million from 4.05 million.

The consolidated medical care ratio rose by 0.2% to 82.2% compared with the prior year quarter. UnitedHealth attributed the increase to a 150 basis-point increase from the health insurance tax deferral that was offset by improved business mix, product performance and favorable reserve development.

Shares closed down about 0.3% on Monday at $186.35 in a 52-week range of $132.39 to $188.66. The stock traded down about 0.1% at $186.25 in Tuesday’s pre-market session. The consensus 12-month price target was $196.77 before results were announced.