UnitedHealth hikes 2018 forecast, books another big 1Q gain


By The Associated Press

UnitedHealth chased a 35 percent profit hike in last year’s first quarter with a 31 percent jump in the first three months of 2018 by adding customers and improving its growing operations outside insurance.

The nation’s largest health insurer also boosted its forecast for 2018 after a surprisingly strong start to the year.

The company said Tuesday that it added customers for its Medicare Advantage and Medicaid businesses and stretched its reach into South America by buying a health care provider and insurer that operates in Chile, Columbia and Peru.

The insurer also saw its provision for income taxes shrink 15 percent to $800 million due partly to a lower federal tax rate.

UnitedHealth also booked $1.7 billion in operating earnings, or a 29 percent gain, for its Optum business segment.

Health insurance is still the biggest revenue generator for UnitedHealth, which covers nearly 49 million people. But it also has been focused on growing Optum, which provides pharmacy benefits management and technology services. It operates an expanding number of clinics and urgent care and surgery centers.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. earned $2.84 billion in the first quarter, up from $2.17 billion last year, while adjusted earnings per share totaled $3.04. Total revenue jumped 13 percent to $55.19 billion.

Analysts expected earnings of $2.92 per share on $54.86 billion, according to Zacks Investment Research.

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