UnitedHealth Group Again The Most Profitable Payer In Q3

UnitedHealth Group has topped the industry in profitability for the third straight quarter, according to company earnings reports.

The healthcare giant reported $4.1 billion in profit in the third quarter, an increase of nearly $1 billion year over year. That’s leagues ahead of its main national insurer competitors, which were all largely on par with one another in the quarter.

Cigna and CVS Health both brought in $1.6 billion in profit for the quarter, while Anthem and Humana earned $1.5 billion in profit, according to their earnings reports. Centene Corporation earned $600 million in profit for the third quarter.

Most companies were optimistic about their 2021 outlook save Humana, which cut its guidance amid higher-than-expected costs from the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEO Bruce Broussard said the guidance changes reflect a more “conservative posture” heading into the end of the year compared to others in the market.

“As a reminder, prior to the guidance update, we had not recognized the COVID headwind in our 2021 guidance as many of our peers did,” Broussard said.

Although Humana was the only one to slash its outlook due to COVID, all of the insurers acknowledged the pandemic’s ongoing effects remain a challenge for the rest of the year. Centene CEO Michael Neidorff said during the company’s call that the pandemic is likely a headwind to watch in early 2022 as well.

“Overall, the numbers reflect a return towards normal utilization, while still covering reasonable amounts of COVID costs, which seemed to have peaked in August,” he said, a sentiment that was echoed by many of his peers during third-quarter calls.

On revenue, it was neck-and-neck between CVS Health and UnitedHealth Group both in the third quarter and through the first nine months of the year. CVS brought in $73.8 billion in revenue for the third quarter, while UHG posted $72.3 billion.

Through Sept. 30, CVS reported $215.5 billion in revenue and UnitedHealth reported $213.8 billion. CVS overtook UnitedHealth on revenue in the second quarter, with the trend continuing through the third quarter.

Cigna was the next-highest, bringing in $44.3 billion in revenue in the third quarter and $128.4 billion through the first three quarters of the year. Anthem and Centene were also close on revenue, with Anthem posting $35.8 billion for the quarter and $102.1 billion across three quarters.

Centene raked in $32.4 billion in the third quarter and $93.4 billion through Sept. 30.

Humana brought in $20.7 billion in revenue in the quarter, for the highest profit margin among the six payers. Through three quarters, Humana has earned $62 billion in revenue.


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