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Life Health > Health Insurance > Your Practice

UnitedHealth Is Bullish on Health Insurance — in South America

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Executives at UnitedHealth Group Inc. today continued to emphasize the performance of operations other than the company’s huge U.S. health insurance business.

The Minnetonka, Minnesota-based health insurer is reporting $2.6 billion in net income for the third quarter on $50 billion in revenue, up from $2 billion in net income on $46 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2016.

(Related: UnitedHealth Says Narrower Group Distribution Helps Sales)

The company ended the quarter providing or administering major medical coverage for 49 million people around the world, up from 48 million people a year earlier. The number of U.S. residents covered increased to 45 million, from 44 million.

Medicare Advantage plan enrollment jumped to 4.4 million, from 3.6 million.

The Medicare supplement insurance coverage holder count increased to 4.4 million, from 4.2 million.

Enrollment in traditional “risk-based” health insurance plans, as opposed to government plans, or employer health plans simply administered by UnitedHealth, increased to 7.8 million, from 7.3 million.

When the company held a public conference call this morning to go over the results with Wall Street securities analysts, executives’ discussions focused mainly on the company’s Medicare, Medicaid and international operations.

David Wichmann recently took over from Stephen Hemsley as the company’s chief executive officer.

He noted during the company’s call that Medicare plan enrollment, for example, is 12% higher than it was in the third quarter of 2016.

Enrollment in Medicaid plans and other government plans aimed at low-income people increased 10%, year-over-year, and revenue from those plans increased 13%, to $1.1 billion.

When analysts asked Wichmann about the company’s focus going forward, and possible plans for acquisitions, he noted that the company had used an acquisition to enter Brazil’s health insurance market, and recently made another deal to expand into Chile, Colombia and Peru.

UnitedHealth is also interested in increasing its involvement in the pharmacy benefits management market and in businesses that deliver care outside the hospital, Wichmann said.

Executives said President Donald Trump’s move to end Affordable Care Act cost-sharing reduction subsidy payments as soon as this week, and to explore efforts to ease regulatory restrictions on products such as short-term medical insurance and interstate association health plans, should have little effect on the company.

Dan Schumacher, the president of UnitedHealth’s health insurance unit, said efforts to promote use of short-term health insurance and association health plan market could be good for UnitedHealth.

Sales of short-term medical insurance had been growing well before a new, Obama-era three-month duration limitation kicked in, in April, and UnitedHealth already has about 300,000 association health plan members, Schumacher said.

“Our individual business founded on an association plan,” Schumacher said. 

—-Read Wichmann to Take Over as UnitedHealth CEO on ThinkAdvisor.

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