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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Corporate America is expecting big jumps in profits in the second quarter. That's especially the case in health care, an industry that hasn't really lost a lot of financial momentum throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The bottom line: Health care spending is basically back to pre-COVID levels. Expect big numbers across the board.

What to watch: Medical loss ratios, the industry jargon for the percentage of premiums that health insurers pay out in medical claims.

  • This statistic is always closely watched because it's the engine of the industry.
  • Higher-than-expected ratios mean people are getting more care; which means more money being paid by insurers to hospitals, nursing homes, drug companies, device makers, etc. That trickles down in the form of more money to spend on technology, consultants and other vendors.
  • In the same way, lower-than-expected MLRs last year from patients delaying care was a financial boon for insurers.
  • UnitedHealth Group, which posted a historically profitable 2020 and is on pace to surpass that total this year, will kick off the industry's earnings season Thursday.

Between the lines: Wall Street estimates MLRs will be elevated compared with last year, considering COVID cases have decreased and more people are getting procedures and seeing their doctors.

  • Pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies also will benefit from more filled prescriptions and vaccines.
  • Wall Street expects UnitedHealth's MLR was 83% in the second quarter.

Yes, but: Health insurers are still expected to report sizable earnings.

  • They aren't paying for as many COVID hospitalizations, which are down significantly from last year and the start of the year, as more people got vaccinated.
  • And while hospitals and other providers are seeing more patients, the industry isn't assuming a full return to pre-COVID patient volumes until the fourth quarter of this year, according to analysts at Mizuho Securities.

Go deeper: Follow our health care earnings tracker

Go deeper

Oct 25, 2021 - Technology

Facebook beats earnings, but misses on revenue

Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images

Facebook's stock jumped marginally in after-hours trading Monday after the company beat Wall Street expectations on earnings per share but missed estimates on revenue.

Between the lines: Facebook warned investors last month that changes to Apple’s privacy rules would weigh on its business, and that warning helped the company dodge a big stock slide today.

Hope King, author of Closer
Oct 26, 2021 - Economy & Business

Higher prices are the new norm, with no end in sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies are making money at record rates thanks in part to customers who are willing to pay higher prices.

Why it matters: In order to keeping that corporate profitability streak going, shoppers should expect sticker prices to stay high or become more expensive well into 2022. Fewer promotions and shallower discounts will also become the norm as inventory levels remain low.

Oct 25, 2021 - Podcasts

COVID vaccines and the trajectory of the pandemic

There’s been a lot of big news on COVID vaccines and boosters recently, and it's likely to change how the pandemic plays out this winter. While experts are predicting the colder months won’t see the same surge of COVID cases as last year, there are still a host of unknowns.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Axios’ health care editor and author of Axios Vitals newsletter Tina Reed about the latest vaccine news and what it means for us all.