While major payers issued warnings to investors ahead of second-quarter earnings about rising utilization rates, patients returning to deferred services did not prevent these companies from turning a profit.
UnitedHealth Group led the way yet again in profitability for the second quarter as well as the first half of 2023, according to company earnings reports. The healthcare giant posted $5.5 billion in profit for the quarter and $11.1 billion through the first six months of the year.
By comparison, the next-highest company for second-quarter profit was CVS Health at $1.9 billion. CVS also reported the second-highest profit for the first half of 2023 with $4 billion, according to the filings.
UnitedHealth also tops the list for revenue in the second quarter and first sixth months of the year. The company reported $92.9 billion in second-quarter revenue and $184.8 billion in midyear revenue.
CVS Health did come closer to its rival on revenues, with the company reporting $88.9 billion in revenue for the second quarter and $174.2 billion for the first half of the year.
UHG executives were the first to begin sounding the alarm about rises in utilization that were likely to impact the second quarter and the back half of 2023. On the company's earnings call, CEO Andrew Witty said the increases were consistent with patients returning to services that were deferred during the pandemic.
Much of the increases were for orthopedic care or outpatient surgeries, he said.
"It looks very much more like a kind of deferment of care," Witty said.
CVS Health, meanwhile, said it was also seeing this rise in utilization in its Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, as well as lower volumes at its retail pharmacies while COVID-19 cases recede. It's kick-started a cost-cutting initiatve as a result.
Blues giant Elevance Health reported the third-highest profit for both the second quarter and the first half of the year but was beaten out by the Cigna Group on revenues in both timeframes.
Elevance posted $1.85 billion in profit for the second quarter and $3.8 billion for the first six months of 2023. The company reported $43.7 billion in revenue during the quarter and $80.8 billion for the first half of 2023.
Cigna Group, by comparison, earned $1.5 billion in profit for the second quarter and $2.7 billion for the half. Its revenues were $48.6 billion in the second quarter and $95.1 billion in the first half.
Unlike its peers, a key issue on Elevance Health's earnings call was the ongoing Medicaid redetermination process. The insurer is a major player in Medicaid and saw a drop of 132,000 members in the second quarter as redeterminations began again in April.
Cigna execs, though, did address the trend around MA utilization and said the growth aligned with expectations.
Government insurer Centene lands at fifth place in our analysis, reporting $1.05 billion in profit during the second quarter and $2.2 billion through the first six months of the year.
Revenues at Centene were $37.6 billion in the second quarter and $76.5 billion at the midpoint of 2023.
The company also discussed redeterminations with investors and said that the process so far has proceeded along its expectations. It lost nearly 263,000 members from its Medicaid plans in the second quarter alone, so membership losses at major Medicaid players will be key to watch as the year progresses.
Humana closes out our list with $959 million in profit during the second quarter and $2.2 billion in profit for the first half of 2023. It does just edge out Centene in first-half profit.
Humana reported $26.7 billion in revenue for the quarter and $53.5 billion for the first six months of the year.
The company did echo comments from others in the industry about MA utlization increases, but its significant growth in enrollment has helped mitigate those challenges.