UnitedHealth's profits rise 35%
* UnitedHealth Group, Minneapolis, last week posted a 35% jump in third-quarter profits, surpassing Wall Street's expectations, as it raised premiums, cut expenses and benefited from slowing medical cost trends. The announcement followed a similary strong second quarter in which many large insurers posted hefty profits (Aug. 18, p. 6). UnitedHealth's net income for the three months ended Sept. 30 reached $476 million, or 77 cents per share, compared with $353 million, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier. Total revenue rose 16% to $7.24 billion. UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, saved $20 million as medical costs rose 10% to 11% in the quarter, compared with projections of 11% to 12%. The company raised its earnings outlook for 2003 by 6 cents, to $2.91 per share, up 37% from 2002.
Triad takes $50 million charge
* Triad Hospitals, Plano, Texas, said last week that more uninsured patients and higher copayments for insured patients are forcing the company to increase its allowance for bad debt and take a $50 million charge for the third quarter. Triad said the noncash charge would cut earnings for the quarter by 41 cents per share, with the company predicting per-share profits of 9 cents to 14 cents.
WebMD's results fall short
* WebMD Corp. last week announced lower-than-expected preliminary results for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, blaming the shortfall partly on lower revenues and higher costs associated with preparing its transaction division and healthcare customers for standard transaction formats required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The Elmwood Park, N.J.-based healthcare information company said it expected revenue of about $250 million for the third quarter, about $7 million short of Wall Street expectations, and earnings of 9 cents per share, 2 cents short of analyst estimates.