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Case for Medicare for all just gets stronger

Health care or wealth care? “Americans are getting sick and dying, and doctors risking their lives to save them, in this crisis. Meanwhile, health insurance companies are denying coverage and squeezing doctors to generate record profits.”

‘Thriving during a pandemic’: UnitedHealth posts surge in profits as millions lose insurance and thousands die

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“That’s the story of healthcare in America today,” former insurance executive Wendell Potter said Wednesday after the largest private health insurance provider in the U.S. announced that it saw a significant increase in profits over the last three months while the Covid-19 pandemic killed thousands of people and forced millions more off their employer-sponsored coverage.

UnitedHealth Group, whose CEO is an outspoken opponent of Medicare for All, said the coronavirus outbreak had “minimal impact” on its earnings in the first quarter of 2020 and is unlikely to disrupt the company’s profit outlook for the rest of the year. As of Thursday morning, the novel coronavirus has officially infected more than 636,000 people and killed more than 28,000 in the United States.

Americans are getting sick and dying, and doctors risking their lives to save them, in this crisis. Meanwhile, health insurance companies are denying coverage and squeezing doctors to generate record profits.”
—Wendell Potter, Medicare for All NOW!

“UnitedHealth Group’s first quarter 2020 revenues grew $4.1 billion or 6.8% to $64.4 billion, reflecting broad-based revenue growth across Optum and UnitedHealthcare,” the company said in its quarterly earnings report (pdf). Optum and UnitedHealthcare are both owned by UnitedHealth Group.

“First quarter earnings from operations grew $164 million or 3.4% year-over-year to $5.0 billion,” the company said, noting that the costs of the coronavirus pandemic were offset by “lower elective care demand,” meaning fewer people sought out non-essential medical treatment over the last three months as Covid-19 spread across the U.S.

Potter, a self-described “reformed insurance propagandist” who now heads the advocacy group Medicare for All NOW!, wrote in a series of tweets Wednesday that “while America’s reeling from the Covid-19 crisis, my old industry—the private health insurance racket—is winning big.”

“UnitedHealth easily blew away Wall Street’s expectations for the first 3 months of 2020. The $5 billion it reported earning over the first 3 months of the year is actually UP 3.4% over the same quarter last year—despite losing almost 1.2 million in health plan membership,” said Potter. “In other words, they’re thriving during a pandemic.”

Potter noted that instead of using profits to reduce premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for its customers amid the coronavirus pandemic, UnitedHealth Group “used $1.7 billion to buy back its own shares.”

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