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 has been reporting and editing in various journalism roles for nearly a decade. Most recently, she was the senior editor of FierceHealthPayer, an e-newsletter covering the health insurance industry. A graduate of Penn State University, she previously served in editing roles at newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado.

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