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3 mysteries: What UnitedHealth isn't talking about

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UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) and its executives talked mainly about the company’s medical and pharmacy benefits management operations Thursday, when they went over second-quarter earnings.

The company gave little specific information about the effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on its operations in its earnings releases, and the executives gave few details about the company’s new PPACA public exchange operations during a conference call with securities analysts.

See also: UnitedHealth execs skimp on PPACA details and UnitedHealth’s earnings: 3 lessons

Stephen Hemsley, the chief executive officer, declared that the company would not “comment on market-specific activities or hypothetical implications that we are not involved in.”

See also: Aetna’s Humana deal pressures Cigna to agree on Anthem offer

“Our focus remains squarely on expanding the capabilities of our enterprise to serve our customers more effectively,” Hemsley said.

The company is reporting $1.6 billion in net income for the quarter on $36 billion in revenue, compared with $1.4 billion in net income on $33 billion for the second quarter of 2014.

The company ended the quarter providing or administering medical coverage for 46 million people, up from 45 million people a year earlier.

Enrollment in commercial risk-based programs increased to 8.1 million, from 7.6 million, the company said.

For some things the company did not say anything much about, read on.

1. Public exchange plan results and adventures

The company acknowledged in a statutory financial report for first-quarter results that it is selling coverage through 23 individual PPACA exchange programs this year and 12 Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges, and that’s about the only exchange numbers it’s giving.

Dan Schumacher, the chief financial officer for the UnitedHealthcare unit, said the ratio of claims to exchange plan revenue is “in keeping with expectations, but obviously higher than what our traditional commercial book would be.”

Jeff Alter, chief executive of the UnitedHealthcare employer and individual business said the public exchange market is “a growing, emerging developing market, and we’re planning for that as we pace forward.”

And that was about all the executives said about their public exchange effort.

See also: UnitedHealth still optimistic about PPACA exchanges

Andy Slavitt

2. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)

Andy Slavitt, a former UnitedHealth executive is running CMS, the agency in charge of PPACA implementation, and is on track to become the next head of CMS.

UnitedHealth recently announced a decision to leave AHIP, U.S. health insurers’ main trade group. Marilyn Tavenner, the former CMS administration, is taking over as president of AHIP.

UnitedHealth did not address either topic today.

See also: Obama nominates Andy Slavitt to run Medicare, Medicaid agency

Image: Andy Slavitt (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


3. You, the brokers

The word “brokers” came up just one time during the analyst call, when Tom Carroll, an analyst, asked whether he thought brokers and benefits consultants might be more interested in UnitedHealth this year.

Executives said that national accounts sales activity looks good, but Hemsley did not use the word “broker” or a synonym in his answer to Carroll.

“I think the market has been in flux and looking for value, and we’re just going to stay on it,” Hemsley said.

See also: Why some insurers might love Medicaid more than they love producers


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