UnitedHealth expects to add 700K Medicare Advantage members in 2020

UnitedHealth expects to add 700,000 members to its Medicare Advantage plans in 2020, executives said on the company's earnings call Monday.

David Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, said on the call that is at the higher end of the healthcare giant's predictions from its investor day in December and includes growth in United's dual-eligible membership.

He said it was the insurer's strongest performance in Medicare enrollment ever.

"As we continue to do better for those we serve, we will grow, helping improve the health system – one person at a time – intensely focused on driving improved consumer and physician experiences," Wichmann said.

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Another business line the company touted on the call was OptumHealth, Optum's provider services arm that includes OptumCare. OptumHealth saw 25% revenue growth year over year, reaching $30.3 billion in 2019. Andrew Witty, UnitedHealth Group president and Optum CEO, said on the call that the company expects to see continued strong performance in this business line as its providers embrace risk.

Witty said that 150,000 additional OptumCare patients are set to be enrolled in care management programs that include physician risk in the next year. He said that as physicians take on additional risk, Optum sees improvements "across the board."

"We continue to see that trend accelerate," Witty said. "It's very much something that we then anchor the buildout of the rest of our OptumHealth portfolio around."

UnitedHealth has invested in building out OptumCare's capabilities, including purchasing DaVita Medical Group and folding it into the subsidiary.

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Here are additional highlights from UnitedHealth's Q4 and 2019 earnings:

UnitedHealth Group reported net fourth-quarter earnings of $3.5 billion, up from $3 billion in the prior-year quarter.

The healthcare giant also raked in $13.8 billion over the course of 2019, compared to $11.9 billion in 2018, UnitedHealth said in its earnings release (PDF) Wednesday morning.

The company earned $242 billion in revenue over the course of the year, a 7% increase from 2018. This performance positions UnitedHealth for a strong 2020, Wichmann said in a statement.

“The dedicated women and men of UnitedHealth Group work together each day to improve outcomes and the patient and physician experience while making health care more affordable, enabling us to serve more people better, while positioning us for continued growth in 2020,” Wichmann said.

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At an investor conference in December, UnitedHealth Group projected that its revenue would grow by another 7% to 8% in 2020 to between $260 billion and $262 billion. UnitedHealth estimated between $21 billion and $22 billion in operating earnings for the coming year.

Much of the company's 2019 performance and its projected 2020 growth is attributable to strong performance of its diverse Optum subsidiary, which posted $3 billion in earnings from operations in the fourth quarter and $9.4 billion in 2019.

Optum earned $113 billion in revenue for the year, according to the release. Full-year earnings grew by 13.7%, and revenue was up 11.5% year over year.

UnitedHealthcare, the company's massive health plan, posted $10.3 billion in 2019 earnings from operations, an increase of 10.3% over the prior year. Total revenue at the insurer was $193.8 billion, up 5% year over year.

UnitedHealthcare added 845,000 members in its employer plans and 325,000 members in Medicare Advantage plans in 2019.