UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) reported its second quarter results yesterday. The results show an enterprise that is firing steadily on all cylinders. UNH has two main businesses: UnitedHealthcare, the health insurer; and Optum, a portfolio of businesses that provide services crunching Big Data to customers that include other insurers.
From the press release:
- Second quarter revenues grew 11% year-over-year to exceed $36 billion,
- UnitedHealthcare grew to serve 1.6 million more people domestically in the past year, including 175,000 people in the second quarter
- Optum revenues of $13.6 billion grew 16% year-over-year; operating earnings Increased 19%
- Second quarter net earnings grew 15% year-over-year to $1.64 per share, with cash flows from operations of $1.2 billion.
There were not many surprises, except that the “medical care ratio” improved to 81.4 percent, an improvement of 20 basis points. However, this was slightly disappointing to analysts, many of whom expected the ratio to be under 81 percent.
This ratio is the quotient of revenues divided by medical costs, although I have written it in quotation marks because the regulated term is “Medical Loss Ratio,” which was newly defined by Obamacare. There may be a difference in calculation between the ratio reported in the earnings and that reported to regulators. (Indeed, during the call, a UNH executive referred the “coordinated care ratio,” which is a remarkable term because not all of UNH’s plans are characterized by coordinated care.)
What was not disclosed? The medical care ratio for plans in Obamacare’s exchanges. The reporting of only a consolidated ratio, without breaking it down by segment, frustrated many analysts on the earnings call. Matthew Borsch of Goldman Sacs indicated that UNH formerly reported the ratio by segments. Everyone understands that health plans are losing money on the exchanges and we’d like to know exactly how it’s impacting their businesses.
Nevertheless, UNH continues to succeed under the new health law. The quarterly dividend was $0.1625 in May 2015 (the first quarter after the Affordable Care Act was passed) and has increased steadily to $0.50 in June 2015.