UnitedHealth Group maintained its status as Minnesota’s largest public company in 2017 as the Minnetonka-based health care giant for the first time surpassed the $200 billion mark in annual revenue. The company’s UnitedHealthcare business remained the largest private health insurer in the country, with particularly strong growth in its already large business providing coverage to Medicare beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, the Optum division for health care services grew, too, including an acquisition announced in January 2017 that’s making UnitedHealth Group one of the nation’s largest operators of surgery centers.
“They continue to do extremely well in the Medicare Advantage market — this is the managed-care product for seniors,” said Steven Hamill, an analyst with Winslow Capital in Minneapolis. “The second big driver has been the Optum business.”
UnitedHealth Group accounts for more than one-third of the revenue among all companies in the Star Tribune 50. It’s the primary reason that the six health care companies on the list account for an outsized portion of both revenue and income.
At the start of this month, the market capitalization of UnitedHealth Group was $232 billion, up by one-third from the same time last year.
Investors have been less excited about Medtronic, the medical device manufacturer with operational headquarters in Fridley. It’s the second-largest health care company in the Star Tribune 50, yet Medtronic’s market capitalization at the start of June was down slightly compared to the same period a year ago.
Hamill said Medtronic in 2017 suffered from the delayed launch of a key product for patients with diabetes and an IT disruption which hurt revenue and earnings. By comparison, many of Medtronic’s peers were beating investor expectations. The good news, he added, is that the manufacturing problem on the diabetes device has since been resolved.
UnitedHealth Group last year had more than nine times the revenue of Medtronic, but the companies were much more comparable in terms of overall earnings. The difference fits with the sectors, Hamill said, since health insurers typically see profits in the range of 3 percent to 6 percent before taxes. Among medical device manufacturers, pretax margins often exceed 20 percent.
Going forward, investors at UnitedHealth Group are watching to see if competition will pick up now that the individual market under the federal Affordable Care Act seems to be stabilizing, Hamill said. But, he added, shifting political winds can always change that picture.
“The political landscape is always probably the biggest question for investors with regard to health care,” Hamill said, “and health insurance in particular.”