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UnitedHealth exec sees 'momentum' in Medicare Advantage amid executive order

A recently signed executive order promoting Medicare Advantage stands to benefit UnitedHealth Group Inc., according to company leaders.

The order, issued by President Donald Trump earlier this month, was aimed at encouraging Medicare beneficiaries to purchase private insurance plans, specifically Medicare Advantage, instead of obtaining coverage provided by the government's traditional program for seniors and Americans with disabilities.

Brian Thompson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, during a third-quarter earnings call said some of the elements of the order, which include pushing for greater access to Medicare Advantage and accelerating payment for covered prescriptions, are ideas that the insurer has historically favored.

"We're certainly encouraged by not only the popularity of the program today, but the sentiment that would suggest momentum going forward," Thompson said.

UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann described Medicare Advantage as a "very strong performing product" for the health insurer and expressed optimism that the executive order would boost confidence in the program.

CFO John Rex said UnitedHealth's overall revenue growth in the third quarter was led by Medicare and retirement. He said the number of seniors served in Medicare Advantage increased year over year by 315,000, and was up nearly 450,000 "when duly eligible members are added."

In addition to recording year-over-year increases in earnings from operations and total revenues in the third quarter, UnitedHealth also boosted its EPS outlook for the full year.

Wichmann during the call also said UnitedHealth is accelerating its digital presence. The company's consumer digital platform will serve nearly 20% of the entire U.S. population by January 2020, the executive said, adding that it is being broadened to include "proprietary, deeply personalized" recommendations for patient actions within portable medical records.