When patients steer clear of the doctor's office and the hospital, as many did in 2011, healthcare insurers stand to rake it in. UnitedHealth had a particularly strong past year, with net income of $5.1 billion, up by 11% from the previous year. The strong results are partially because that many people scrimped on medical services this past year. UnitedHealth's insurance program grew by an additional 1.6 million people last year, which certainly helped as well. And its Optum health-care services business brought in $29 billion in revenues, an impressive 21% jump from the previous year.
In November 2011, UnitedHealth strengthened its position in the growing Medicare market with the acquisition of XLHealth Corp. for an undisclosed amount, gaining 117,000 Medicare members in the process.
In the coming year, the Minnesota-based managed care company is going to keep a watchful eye on the Supreme Court's coming decision regarding the constitutionality of the 2010 Health Care Reform Act, particularly the individual mandate that requires just about every American to purchase insurance. For now, though, things are looking bright, with UnitedHealth share prices up by nearly 25% from the previous year.