UnitedHealth Says Deferred Care Demand Not as High as Feared

By Amruta Khandekar and Bhanvi Satija

April 15, 2022

(Reuters) — UnitedHealth Group Inc on Thursday modestly raised its 2022 profit forecast, saying demand for healthcare procedures deferred during the pandemic was approaching normal levels but had not increased as feared.

While the company has seen pressure on earnings from costs related to COVID-19 testing and treatment, some of that was offset by people avoiding non-urgent care during the pandemic.

And some US hospitals were again compelled to defer elective surgeries during the record Omicron-fueled surge in COVID-19 in the first quarter. Cases have since dropped sharply from a pandemic peak in January.

Demand for certain procedures, such as cancer screenings, have picked up pace, UnitedHealth said. However, emergency department and pediatric visits, which add to the health insurer's costs, were trending below normal levels, it said.

"What we haven't seen though is an expectation we had that incidence rates might come up because of missed treatments over the earlier period," Chief Financial Officer John Rex told analysts on a conference call.