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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In July, the head of the American Hospital Association blasted UnitedHealth Group for its "jaw-dropping" profits in the second quarter. But an analysis of financial documents shows a sample of large not-for-profit hospital systems that collectively generated the same amount of revenue as the insurance giant were almost three times more profitable than UnitedHealth.

Reality check: Companies and lobbying groups often paint their business foes as the primary problems with the health care system, but each sector contributes to the system's dysfunction.

By the numbers: UnitedHealth Group, which also increasingly owns doctors and other services, posted a net profit of $4.3 billion on $71.3 billion of revenue in the second quarter.

  • UnitedHealth's operating profit, which excludes taxes and interest, totaled $6 billion.
  • Axios looked at the Q2 financial data for 24 major tax-exempt hospital systems that combined for roughly $72 billion of revenue, on par with UnitedHealth.

Those 24 systems combined for a net profit of $11.9 billion, or nearly three times UnitedHealth's net profit in the quarter.

  • The hospitals' operating profit, which excludes investment income, was $3.6 billion, or about 60% of UnitedHealth's operating profit.
  • Hospitals often point to their operating incomes when referring to slim margins without taking into account the benefits from their investments.
  • The American Hospital Association didn't make anyone available for an interview, but sent a statement that said, "Comparing one commercial insurer to one hospital or health system doesn't give Axios the story you want to publish, so instead you're comparing one insurer to 24 health systems comprised of hundreds of hospitals that provide care 24/7."
  • The analysis looked at a group of systems, instead of just one system, to provide a better average of how large systems were doing. Individually, some hospital systems like Mayo Clinic (31% net margin) and Indiana University Health (28% net margin) are significantly more profitable than UnitedHealth (6% net margin).

The bottom line: Health care has been as profitable as ever during the pandemic. That has been true for both hospitals and health insurers.

Go deeper

Oct 12, 2021 - Health

The health care worker revolt

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The toll of the coronavirus pandemic has spurred nurses, front-line technicians and other hospital employees to walk out or authorize strikes.

Why it matters: The pandemic has buckled a system that already faced worker shortages and burnout. Patients ultimately can't receive adequate care if workers leave from the stress and violence.

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.