UnitedHealth revenue jumps 11% as profits dip

UnitedHealth saw its revenue rise 11 percent to $28.8 billion for last year's fourth quarter, while its profits dropped just slightly by 1 percent to $1.24 billion.

The largest insurer in the country boosted its revenue by increasing membership by 20 percent in its Medicare plans and international businesses, including purchasing Brazil's largest healthcare company Amil Participacoes, which brought in 4 million new members, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  

But UnitedHealth's profits fell because operating costs rose, primarily due to bringing in-house some pharmacy benefits management services and preparing for a new Tricare contract, the Associated Press reported.

Looking forward, Helmsley said "2014, 2015 and beyond hold the potential to be periods of positive growth and opportunity for our businesses," largely because of health insurance exchanges, The Wall Street Journal reported.

CEO Stephen Hemsley said the company plans to sell policies in 10 to 25 exchanges, but it hasn't yet firmed any commitments. "We will only participate in exchanges that we assess to be fair, commercially sustainable and provide a reasonable return on the capital they will require," he said, Reuters reported.

UnitedHealth will proceed with caution, Hemsley added, because he's unsure whether exchanges will immediately enroll large numbers of consumers. "Our sense is that the initial consumer and small business response may be modest," he said, adding however, that "we are committed to being ready."

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article (subscription required)
- see the Minneapolis Star Tribune article
- check out the Reuters article
- read the Associated Press article