EXCLUSIVE: UnitedHealth Group made $81 billion in revenues during Q3 2022, billions subsidized by American tax dollars
United Healthcare's third quarter earnings are up 296% from the same quarter in 2012.
Today is the day to really connect the dots about why we Americans have to pay so much for health insurance that so many of us can no longer even use. I really hope our employers and politicians see this. If this doesn’t get them outraged and willing to do something bold, I just don’t know what will.
First, the country’s biggest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group (UNH), disclosed this morning how much money it made between July 1 and September 30 of this year. The numbers were absolutely stunning. See details below. But a couple of numbers are worth noting right here: Although UNH’s profits have increased exponentially over the past 10 years, it had nearly *400,000 FEWER* people enrolled in health plans serving people in the private sector on September 30, 2022, than on September 30, 2012.
That means that ALL of its health plan enrollment growth over the past 10 years was in what it calls “community and senior,” which means Medicare and Medicaid. It also means that even if you are not enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare plan, your taxes contributed to the company’s profits. Mightily.
Second, The Washington Post reported this morning that “inflation in the medical sector will mean higher premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs.” It went on to say:
The increase–which analysts expect to continue in the coming months–is sure to hit Americans’ pocketbooks, particularly the nearly 155 million people with employer-sponsored coverage.
It is not a stretch to say that UnitedHealth alone is fueling that inflation and benefiting greatly from it as it continues to move aggressively into health care delivery. It already is the biggest employer of physicians in the country.
THE DETAILS: UNH said it took in nearly $81 billion in revenues during the third quarter of 2022. That’s up 12% over the same period last year–and 296% over the third quarter of 2012.
Its earnings from operations (profits) were $7.5 billion, up 31% over the same period last year–and 288% over 3Q 2012 when its earnings were a relatively paltry $2.6 billion.
Much of the profit growth came from the side of UNH’s house that operates health insurance plans (UnitedHealthcare). That division posted profits of $3.8 billion during 3Q 2022. That’s up 172% over the $2.2 billion it made in 3Q 2012.
Don’t miss this!
Coincidentally, today I am one of the panelists on The Problem with Jon Stewart talking about how corporations, especially insurers, have been cheating real Americans out of their tax dollars. I hope you’ll watch it. You’ll laugh, of course, but, I believe, get mad as hell.
Please tell your employer and your member of Congress to tune in, too. You can watch it on AppleTV Plus.
But look at this: The division called Optum, which operates UNH’s pharmacy benefits business and owns an ever-growing number of physician practices and medical facilities, made $3.2 billion, an increase of 907% over 10 years.
Now let’s look at the category UNH calls “people served.” The company says 26,555,000 people were enrolled in its private sector (employer-sponsored and individual) health plans in the U.S. on September 30, 2022, up slightly from the same quarter last year. BUT–that’s 370,000 FEWER people than it “served” in those plans a decade ago, two years after the Affordable Care Act became law.
And now look at this: Enrollment in UNH’s so-called Medicare Advantage plans, which it markets largely through AARP, swelled 269%, from 2,615,000 on September 30, 2012, to 7,035,000 on September 30, 2022.
Now you know why I’ve been saying that our treasured Medicare program has become the insurance industry’s cash cow.
UNH also manages several states’ taxpayer-funded Medicaid programs, and its growth there has been almost as impressive. Enrollment in UNH’s Medicaid-managed plans increased 207%, from 3,870,000 on September 30, 2012, to 8,005,000.
As I said earlier this week on Democracy Now!, health insurers’ massive profits from government-funded health programs will go down in history as the biggest heist, the biggest transfer of wealth from low- and middle-income American taxpayers to a few already rich corporate executives and shareholders.
Also, I’m quoted in a news release this week from Reps. Mark Pocan and Ro Khanna, who have introduced a bill that would bar private insurers from even using the word “Medicare” in their sales and marketing materials. As I said, Medicare Advantage plans are neither Medicare nor an advantage.
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CONNECTING THOSE DOTS: Now back to that Washington Post story about the coming jump in premiums and out-of-pocket costs. It quotes the amazing Sara Collins of the Commonwealth Fund as saying that “the uptick doesn’t bode particularly well for what consumers with commercial insurance will pay for premiums and deductibles for their health care.” She went on to say what by now should be so obvious:
Policymakers should be very concerned about what this means for people’s ability to get health care, and also the medical debt that they’ll be carrying over time.”
The Post story also included foreboding comments from James Gelfand, president of the ERISA Industry Committee, which represents large employers. He said that “employers are grappling with whether to pass costs onto their employees, change the design of their benefit plans and/or absorb the spike into their broader budgets. That’s forcing some “really tough decisions,” he said.
Gelfand went on to add:
The only 100% sure way to keep within budget as the medical industry (especially hospitals) demands more and more is to raise premiums, increase deductibles, higher copays, and coinsurance. Employers hate to do this, but the medical-industrial complex demands an ever-increasing share of workers’ wages.
BOTTOM LINE: UNH and the other big for-profit health insurers, which grabbed more than 80% of the Medicare Advantage enrollment growth this year and which control more than 80% of the pharmacy benefit management marketplace, are increasingly both the drivers and the beneficiaries of medical inflation. More than ever, they ARE the medical-industrial complex.