UnitedHealth Group projects at least $277B in revenue for 2021

The outside of UnitedHealth Group's headquarters
UnitedHealth Group hosted its investor day on Tuesday. (UnitedHealth Group)

UnitedHealth Group expects to make $257 billion in revenue for 2020, with earnings per share likely close to $16.75, the insurer said Tuesday.

The insurance giant offered the projection as part of its investor conference, UnitedHealth Group where it gave an update on its 2020 guidance, as well as the first look at its outlook in 2021.

National insurers have been quite profitable through much of the year, due to significant drops in care utilization under the pandemic. Their sky-high earnings have prompted a congressional review, though payers warned that the fourth quarter could tip the scales somewhat as utilization returns to near-pre-pandemic levels.

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For 2021, UnitedHealth Group estimates earnings of $277 billion to $280 billion and full-year earnings of $17.75 to $18.25 per share. CEO David Wichmann told investors during the company's third-quarter earnings call last month the company would likely be "stepping out initially with a more conservative all-in 2021 starting point" due to the pandemic's impacts, and Wall Street analysts called Tuesday's estimate conservative.

Those projections account for a potential $1.80 per share in unfavorable impact attributable to the pandemic, including costs of treatment and testing and the negative economic impacts.

The company expects cash flow from earnings of between $20 billion and $21 billion in 2021.