US health insurance companies reported billions in profits in the first quarter of 2021, after making a windfall in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, reported $4.9bn in profits in the first quarter of 2021 compared to $3.4bn in the same period in 2020 – a 44% increase. The higher than anticipated profits prompted the company to raise its projections for the year.
Anthem also beat estimates in its report of $1.67bn in profits in the first three months of 2021, a 9.5% increase from the same period last year. Humana’s net income was $828m in the first quarter, a 75% increase from the same period the year before.
CVS Health, which owns the Aetna health insurance provider and drugstores, reported $2.2bn in profits, up from $2bn in the same quarter a year before.
Cigna raised its forecasts for the year.
Health insurers have been insulated from this stress because there were sharp declines in expensive, elective procedures, such as hip replacement surgery. People also delayed or skipped doctor’s appointments because of fears of Covid-19’s spread or concerns about the cost of medical care during a recession.
CVS Health’s chief financial officer and executive vice-president, Eva Boratto, said in an earnings call this week: “Covid-19 is expected to have a minimal impact on consolidated financial results for the year.”
Small healthcare providers such as independent doctor’s office and rural hospitals have been in a financial crunch, or closed, during the pandemic. Emergency medical service systems and some larger hospitals have also been under severe financial pressure.