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Health Insurers: A Bit Winded?
Monday, March 25, 2019

From time to time we revisit how large, for-profit health insurers are faring financially. Now that 2018 numbers are filed for seven of the largest such firms, we can declare that they are still alive — although perhaps not as hale and hearty as they were 12 months ago.

We pulled up data for the following firms:

  • Anthem
  • Centene
  • Cigna
  • Humana
  • Molina Healthcare
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • Wellcare Health Plans

We reviewed their revenue, operating expenses, operating income, operating cash flow, and net income; comparing 2018 to 2017, and 2017 to 2016.

Table 1, below, shows the most recent numbers for all seven firms collectively. At first glance they look OK. Revenue, operating income, net income all going up; that’s good. Can’t say we love the decline in operating cash or the increase in operating expenses, but nobody needs to administer CPR for a data table like this.



Now let’s look at Table 2, comparing 2016 to 2017. We see a much more rosy complexion here: revenue not growing quite as quickly, but operating expenses growing more slowly, and operating cash flow popping along with a 31.2 percent increase. Net income popped even higher.



What happened? For starters, six of our seven companies saw declines in operating cash flow; only UnitedHealth ($UNH) kept cash growing. Humana ($HUM) also saw operating income drop by 27 percent, which pulled down net income by 31 percent.

You can research the numbers yourself on our Multi-Company page, for health insurance or any other sector you follow. And as the guest on our most recent master class video, Jason Voss, stressed — look at the financial data over longer periods of time. As our example above shows, what looks good across two years may look a lot less healthy across three or more.


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