UnitedHealth Expects Pent-Up Care to Return Later in ’21

UnitedHealth Group began the first quarter of 2021 on a high note, reporting earnings per share (EPS) and a medical loss ratio (MLR) that both beat the Wall Street consensus estimate and saying it expects to achieve greater full-year earnings than it previously estimated. However — mirroring much of the messaging last year when the COVID-19 pandemic was massively depressing routine and elective care — executives warned that the majority of the unfavorable COVID impact they’re expecting will transpire in the second half of the year.

In fact, UnitedHealth expects roughly 70% of the predicted COVID-related $1.80 EPS hit to occur in the back half of the year, Chief Financial Officer John Rex said during an April 15 conference call to discuss the company’s financial results. He said that projection is based on UnitedHealth’s prediction that as the year wears on and vaccination rates rise, people will increasingly be able to access higher-acuity, previously deferred care.

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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