How Dumping ACA Exchanges Boosted UnitedHealth’s Profits

Print Email

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) reported first-quarter 2017 results before markets opened on Tuesday. The health insurance and benefits management firm reported adjusted diluted quarterly earnings per share (EPS) of $2.37 on revenues of $48.7 billion. In the same period a year ago, UnitedHealth reported EPS of $1.81 on revenues of $44.53 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $2.17 on revenues of $48.27 billion.

Revenues from the company’s UnitedHealthcare division rose 11.2% year over year to $40.1 billion, and revenues at its Optum benefits management division rose 7.9% to $21.2. Eliminations totaled $12.65 billion, up 14.4%.

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 first-quarter revenues by about $1.6 billion and lowered the revenue growth rate by 4.1%.

Total enrollment numbers increased year over year from 47.67 million to 49.32 million. Commercial enrollments rose from 26.06 million to 26.85 million. Medicare and Medicaid enrollment rose from 13.18 million to 14.86 million, and international enrollment increased from 4.07 million to 4.17 million. UnitedHealthcare said it served 1.5 million more customers in the quarter, excluding 765,000 who had been served by the ACA. Net customer growth for the quarter totaled 730,000.

The consolidated medical care ratio rose by 0.7% to 82.4% compared with the prior-year quarter. UnitedHealth attributed the increase to a 150 basis point increase from the health insurance tax moratorium offset by reduced levels of individual ACA businesses and other factors.

UnitedHealth Group raised its financial outlook, and now expects 2017 revenues of approximately $200 billion (up $3 billion from the previous estimate), GAAP net earnings of $9.10 to $9.30 per share (up from $8.75 to $9.05) and adjusted net earnings of $9.65 to $9.85 per share (up from $9.30 to $9.65). Cash flows from operations are estimated to come in at $12 billion, the top of the previously estimated range of $11.5 to $12 billion.

Shares closed up about 1.4% on Monday, at $167.18 in a 52-week range of $128.53 to $172.14. The stock traded up about 1.8% at $170.11 in Tuesday’s premarket session. The consensus 12-month price target was $184.95 before results were announced.