UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) reported fourth quarter and full year 2018 results, with continued strong, well-diversified performance across the enterprise.
“The 300,000 dedicated women and men of UnitedHealth Group are positively impacting society by restlessly pursuing a mission to help people live healthier lives and to improve health system performance. Their efforts led to accelerating growth across our enterprise in 2018 and created strong momentum for 2019,” said David S. Wichmann, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group.
The Company affirmed its outlook for 2019, including net earnings of $13.70 to $14.00 per share, adjusted net earnings of $14.40 to $14.70 per share, and cash flows from operations of $17.3 billion to $17.8 billion.
UnitedHealth Group’s full year 2018 revenues of $226 billion grew 12 percent or $25 billion year-over-year. Strong demand for the Company’s products and services produced well-balanced, diversified revenue growth across the businesses.
• Full year 2018 earnings from operations grew $2.1 billion or 14 percent year-over-year to $17.3 billion, with Optum earnings modestly ahead and UnitedHealthcare earnings consistent with the outlook provided at the November 2018 Investor Conference. Adjusted net earnings grew 28 percent to $12.88 per share, with fourth quarter adjusted net earnings growing 27 percent to $3.28 per share.
• Full year 2018 cash flows from operations of $15.7 billion grew 16 percent year-over-year and were 1.3 times net earnings.
• The 2018 consolidated medical care ratio of 81.6 percent decreased 50 basis points year-over-year, as the effect of the return of the health insurance tax more than offset a higher mix of government program business, including a still-elevated but moderating medical care ratio in some traditional Medicaid programs. Medical cost trends remained well-managed in fourth quarter 2018, and included $280 million in favorable reserve development. Year end days claims payable were 50 days, consistent with year end 2017.
• The 2018 operating cost ratio of 15.1 percent increased 40 basis points year-over-year from 14.7 percent in 2017, due to the return of the health insurance tax, significantly offset by operating efficiencies and business mix shifts to lower operating cost businesses.
The income tax rates of 22.3 percent in 2018 and 22.8 percent in 2017 were comparable, with 2018 reflecting the reduced federal statutory rate and 2017 reflecting the favorable revaluation of U.S. deferred tax liabilities, both due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
• Return on equity of 24.4 percent reflected the Company’s strong services business mix and overall margin profile in 2018. The debt to total capital ratio was 40.2 percent at December 31, 2018, dividend payments grew 20 percent year-over-year to $3.3 billion, and the Company repurchased 19 million shares for $4.5 billion in 2018.
UnitedHealthcare provides global health care benefits, serving individuals and employers, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to improving the value health care consumers receive by reducing the total cost of care, enhancing the quality of care received, improving health and wellness and simplifying the health care experience.