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UnitedHealth Group hiked its 2022 forecast Friday after riding both growing health insurance enrollment and its newer care-providing businesses to a better-than-expected second quarter.

The health care giant said a nearly 9% surge in Medicare Advantage customers pushed its total enrollment past 51 million people.

UnitedHealth Group runs UnitedHealthcare, one of the nation’s largest insurers. But it also has been investing for several years now in its Optum segment, which provides care, manages prescription plans and offers technology support.

Revenue from that segment grew 18% to about $45.1 billion in the quarter, helped by Optum Health, which runs a growing network of doctor offices and surgery centers and provides care delivered at patient homes.

Optum Health brought in more than $17 billion, and the company said its revenue per customer grew 30% in the quarter, which it attributed to growth in value-based care arrangements. That involves reimbursing care providers based more on the patient’s health and how it improves instead of for each service performed.

This can give doctors more flexibility to address issues like whether the patient has a ride to an appointment or enough healthy food to eat.

UnitedHealthcare and other insurers have shown a growing interest in approaches like this with the idea that connecting people to more regular care can help them ward off or at least manage expensive medical conditions.

UnitedHealth’s Optum segment turned in a second-quarter operating profit margin of 7.3%. That’s bigger than the insurance side but less than expected, Jefferies analyst David Windley said in a research note.

He called the miss a blemish in an otherwise “very solid” quarter.

Overall, UnitedHealth Group’s second-quarter earnings grew 19% to more than $5 billion while earnings adjusted for one-time items totaled $5.57 per share.

The company’s total revenue grew 13% to $80.3 billion.

Analysts forecast earnings of $5.21 per share on $79.68 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

UnitedHealth Group now expects adjusted earnings for 2022 to range between $21.40 and $21.90 per share. That represents an increase of 20 cents per share on both ends of the range from a forecast the company made in April.

FactSet says analysts expect, on average, earnings of $21.69 per share.

Mizuho Securities USA analyst Ann Hynes called the forecast hike modest. She said in a research note that it likely set the company up for additional increases in the year’s second half.

UnitedHealth also said Friday that it will eliminate out-of-pocket costs for insulin and a few other prescriptions for patients covered by some of its fully insured plans. Those are generally sold to small employers.

A company spokesman said the move, which starts next year, will affect about 688,000 people.

Shares of Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. jumped more than 4% to $524.59 Friday morning, while broader indexes also climbed.

The stock had been up slightly on the year while the Dow Jones industrial average, of which UnitedHealth Group is a member, has plunged nearly 16%.


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