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Despite heavy losses in its public health insurance exchange business, UnitedHealth Group Inc. reported double-digit revenue growth for the fourth quarter on Tuesday, boosted by strong results in its pharmacy benefit management unit.
Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth said total revenue grew to $43.60 billion for the three months ended Dec. 31, an increase of 30.4% from the same period a year ago.
While net income for the quarter fell 17.2% to $1.25 billion from the prior year, results were buoyed by gains in the insurer's Optum Inc. health care services subsidiary.
Optum's revenue grew by 70% to $21.90 billion compared with the year before, reflecting growth in its PBM unit, OptumRx and earnings from Optum's July acquisition of rival PBM Catamaran Corp.
OptumRx saw revenue nearly double to $16.66 billion during the quarter, up from $8.51 billion in the year-ago period.
“The people of UnitedHealth Group are focused sharply on executing fully on 2016 commitments and delivering the highest quality experience for those we are privileged to serve. These efforts are reflected in continuing strong growth as we enter the new year,” UnitedHealth CEO Stephen J. Hemsley said in a statement announcing the results.
United's full-year revenue grew 20.4% to $157.12 billion over the year before, and full-year net income rose 3.4% to $5.81 billion.
Optum posted revenue of $67.6 billion, an increase of 41.6% from 2014.
UnitedHealth also said its earnings were squeezed by losses in its federal health insurance exchange business. The insurer reported a loss of $720 million related to the individual policies it sold through the public exchanges, including $245 million set aside in the fourth quarter for 2016 losses.
The insurer, which has pulled back on marketing its exchange plans in 2016, has previously said it may exit the exchange business altogether in 2017 because of weak enrollment and high medical costs from those who did enroll.
Consolidation among four of the five largest health insurers in the United States is unlikely to jeopardize UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s position at the top of the industry, Moody's Investors Service Inc. said in a report released on Thursday.