'Tripledemic' had no major impact on care costs, UnitedHealth Group says

UnitedHealth Group says a so-called 'tripledemic' of respiratory diseases in late 2022 had no noticeable impact on U.S. healthcare costs.

CEO Andrew Witty told investors Jan. 13 that there had been a lot of anticipation around a surge in viruses creating a 'tripledemic,' over the winter, but those concerns did not materialize into a noticeable impact within the company's fourth quarter financial earnings.

"In the grand scheme of the healthcare costs in the U.S., almost not noticeable. I mean, almost nothing to see," he said. "I really wouldn't … characterize this as a big deal within the overall mix of the total healthcare costs that we're dealing with."

Health experts had warned in October that a severe surge of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was overwhelming children's hospitals around the country and increasing the risk of a "tripledemic," alongside flu and COVID-19. 

Both Mr. Witty and UnitedHealthcare CEO Brian Thompson said there was a spike in flu cases during the fourth quarter, but no more than what was already expected.

"We have now seen that start to wane for, I think, five consecutive weeks here as we're moving forward," Mr. Thompson said. "Really not a meaningful impact as I'm looking forward versus what we've planned for."

The country did record a 13-year high for flu cases in October, though cases have now been declining for several consecutive weeks in most areas. RSV cases have been on the decline since November.

"COVID-19 is the thing that concerns us most as we look at the days and weeks ahead," White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, told NPR on Jan. 6.

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