UnitedHealthcare office

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UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, on Wednesday beat quarterly profit expectations, boosted by strength across its businesses, and maintained its 2020 outlook while it continues to assess the impact of COVID-19.

Shares of the company were up 2.6% at $277.50 before the opening bell.

The company, the first health insurer to report results this earnings season, said it continues to expect adjusted net earnings of $16.25 to $16.55 per share for the year, the mid-point of which is above analysts’ estimate of $16.22, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

UnitedHealth also said Andrew Witty, president of the company and chief executive officer of Optum, which manages drug benefits and offers health-care data analytics service, is taking a leave of absence to work with the World Health Organization for Covid-19 vaccine development.

The coronavirus outbreak, which caused over 20,000 deaths in the United States, has left millions of Americans jobless and triggered fears of a nation-wide economic meltdown.

For the quarter ended March 31, the company reported medical loss ratio — the percentage of premiums paid out for medical services — of 81.0%, a decrease of 1% from a year earlier, primarily due to the return of the health insurance tax.

It beat analysts’ estimates of 81.57%.

The company reported adjusted earnings of $3.72 per share, beating estimates of $3.63.

Net earnings attributable to shareholders fell to $3.38 billion, or $3.52 per share, in the first quarter, from $3.47 billion, or $3.56 per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue rose 6.8% to $64.42 billion, beating Street estimates of $64.32 billion.

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