Fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations make rosy financial positions for insurers

As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to trend downward in most states, payers like UnitedHealth Group are reporting a major boost in profits.

"Obviously for the last couple of years there has been a lot of focus on the effect of COVID as you think about impacts on medical cost trends," UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty said in a third quarter call with investors. "I think as we've rolled through this year honestly, I think it's become much less about COVID."

On Oct. 14, UnitedHealth reported a 28.5 percent increase in net revenues in the third quarter and a 12 percent increase in revenue. The company's third quarter medical loss ratio was 81.6 percent compared to 81.5 percent in the second quarter, and 83 percent in the third quarter of 2021.

"Care patterns in the quarter remained similar to those of the second quarter and our planning for next year anticipates care patterns continue to normalize," CFO John Rex said.

Other large payers such as CVS Health and Humana have also indicated that improving pandemic numbers are likely to have a positive impact on profits, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 15.

COVID-19 hospitalizations peaked in January because of the omicron variant and have now settled at around 20,000 to 40,000 for most of the year.

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