Oct 14, 2020 - Health

The pandemic isn't keeping the health care industry down

Illustration of a health plus peeling back revealing a hundred dollar bill on the reverse side.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Health care's third-quarter earnings season has started, and if the quarter is anything like the previous one, the industry will continue to fare relatively well even amid the broader economic turmoil.

The bottom line: The coronavirus dominated the spring and summer, which forced people to put off care, but people have resumed getting procedures and seeing their doctors.

Between the lines: The second quarter was extremely profitable for health insurers — UnitedHealth Group, for example, posted its highest-ever profit.

  • Health insurers still aren't paying as many medical claims as before the pandemic, which likely will keep their profit figures at high levels.

Yes, but: The persistent amount of coronavirus cases is no longer stunting all demand for pharmaceuticals, surgeries, medical devices, hospital stays, doctor visits and other health care services.

  • The highest net profit margins in Q2 belonged to pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, according to the Axios health care earnings tracker.
  • Almost all hospital systems we track posted a net profit in Q2, due largely to the rebounding stock market boosting their investment portfolios. But patient volumes have also continued to increase since their low point in the spring.
  • Orlando Health, an eight-hospital system, ended June sitting on $2.7 billion and an 8% operating margin — and also received $82 million in taxpayer bailout funds to offset the coronavirus.
  • Hospital executives "expect a sharp recovery [in volumes] over the next twelve months," according to a new SVB Leerink survey.
  • Medical device sales are "recovering faster than expected," Johnson & Johnson executives said on their Q3 investor call yesterday.

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