UnitedHealth Group has improved its customer service and will maintain that focus in 2008, Stephen Hemsley, president and chief executive officer of the Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer, said in a conference call with investors announcing 2007 earnings.
Hemsley said that discussions with the Justice Department over its controversial proposed acquisition of Las Vegas-based Sierra Health Services are in the advanced stages and that the deal is expected to close in the near future. Year-end revenue was $75.43 billion, up 5% from $71.54 billion in 2006. Fourth-quarter revenue increased 3% year-over-year to $18.7 billion. Net earnings for the full year were $4.76 billion, up 15% over 2006. Net earnings for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2007, rose to $1.22 billion, or 92 cents per share, from $1.18 billion, or 84 cents per share, a year ago.
Officials at UnitedHealth have previously stated that customer service has suffered and late last year outlined a strategy to improve relationships, including better integration of PacifiCare members. Those efforts are beginning to gain traction, Hemsley said. UnitedHealth acquired PacifiCare in 2005.
Commercial enrollment remains soft, Hemsley said. But accelerating business in Medicare Advantage, bolstered by an exclusive partnership with the AARP; new product launches; prescription services growth; and the timely closure of Sierra Health and Unison Health Plans acquisitions will contribute to a bright 2008, Hemsley said. -- by Rebecca Vesely