UnitedHealth's Q4 profit drops 38% as COVID-19 costs grow

UnitedHealth Group posted a profit of $2.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, down about 38 percent from $3.5 billion in the same period of 2019. In its Jan. 20 financial release, UnitedHealth said the declines were expected as care patterns normalized and costs related to COVID-19 care grew.

As Americans delayed or deferred elective procedures at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, most commercial health insurers saw significant increases in their profits. However, many have expected those increases would shrink as the pandemic wore on.

Despite the drop in fourth quarter profit, UnitedHealth still saw its revenue grow to $65.5 billion in the last quarter of 2020, up 7.5 percent from $60.9 billion in the same period the previous year, beating analysts' projections. The growth in revenues was led by UnitedHealth's Optum division, which brought in $35.9 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2020, up from $29.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019.

UnitedHealth ended the full year of 2020 with a $15.4 billion profit, up 11.3 percent from $13.8 billion in 2019.

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