UnitedHealth Group execs talk rebate rule, DaVita acquisition in Q2 call

The outside of UnitedHealth Group's headquarters
UnitedHealth Group released second-quarter earnings Thursday morning. (UnitedHealth Group)

UnitedHealth Group earned $4.7 billion in profit in the second quarter of 2019, with earnings increasing year over year by $540 million, or 12%.

The health services company took in $60.6 billion in total revenue, an 8% increase from the second quarter of 2018, bolstered by double-digit increases in OptumHealth, OptumRx and UnitedHealthcare's Medicare plans, according (PDF) to UnitedHealth.

“Our results in the quarter reflect strong and balanced performance from both Optum and UnitedHealthcare and are driven by the 320,000 women and men of UnitedHealth Group who focus every day on creating value for those we serve,” said David Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group.

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One of the changes highlight on UnitedHealth's earnings call Thursday morning was its recent acquisition of DaVita Medical Group, which will be rolled into Optum's portfolio.

On the call, UnitedHealth executives said that bringing the two companies together would allow UnitedHealth's enhanced data and clinical capabilities to boost the quality of care provided by DaVita.

UnitedHealth Group's dedicated health plan UnitedHealthcare earned $2.6 billion in profit in the second quarter, compared to $2.1 billion in the second quarter of 2018. It has gained more than 705,000 members over the past year overall and reached more than 400,000 members in its Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, which were its most profitable.

MA revenue increased by 10% in the second quarter, reaching $20.9 billion.

UnitedHealth also reported $2.1 billion in earnings from Optum, according to the release. OptumRx managed 343 million scripts in the past year, even as it has taken steps to diversify its portfolio beyond the traditional role of the pharmacy benefit manager, particularly into specialty pharmacy.

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On the earnings call, UnitedHealth executives did touch on the recently-rescinded federal rule that would have eliminated legal protections for traditional PBM rebates in Medicare Part D. Wichmann noted that UnitedHealthcare had begun moving toward point-of-sale rebates before the rebate rule was introduced.

Those changes were made "independent of any pending regulation," he said.

Due to the financial results, UnitedHealth has raised its 2019 guidance to net earnings of $14.70 to $14.90 per share from $13.95 to $14.15 per share.