UnitedHealth Group Making Money

NEW YORK -- Managed care company UnitedHealth Group said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit jumped 30 percent on higher premium revenue, despite a continued decline in commercial enrollment, the Associated Press reported.

The Minnetonka, Minn., insurer earned $944 million, or 81 cents per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That's up from $726 million, or 60 cents per share, in the same period of 2008.

Revenue rose 6.5 percent to $21.78 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast a profit of 73 cents per share on $21.72 billion in revenue.

Commercial enrollment continued dropping during the quarter, shedding 6.5 percent to end at just over 24.6 million people. It consists mostly of employer-based and individual health plans and generates higher profit margins for insurers than government business like Medicaid. Insurers have struggled with slumping commercial enrollment due to rising unemployment in the recession.

Enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid plans rose 12.5 percent to just under 7.4 million people.

UnitedHealth is the largest commercial health insurer based on revenue and the first managed care company to report quarterly earnings.

For the full year, profit rose to $3.82 billion, or $3.24 per share, from $2.98 billion, or $2.40 per share, in 2008. Revenue rose to $87.14 billion from $81.19 billion.
Looking ahead, the company reaffirmed its outlook for 2010 profit between $2.90 and $3.10. Analysts expect $3.06 in profit in 2010.

(The preceding article was distributed January 21, 2010, by the Associated Press.)

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