UnitedHealth's financial power is growing. Photo: UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group registered more than $6.6 billion in profits in the second quarter — by far the conglomerate's highest quarterly profit ever, according to an analysis of company financial data from FactSet.

Why it matters: Most companies struggled in the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic froze the economy, but health insurers like UnitedHealth heavily benefited as people held off on going to the doctor or hospital, resulting in fewer medical claims that needed to be paid.

The big picture: The jump in profits exceeded Wall Street's predictions, and was heavily driven by UnitedHealth's insurance division.

  • The operating margin in the second quarter for UnitedHealthcare was 14.3% vs. 6.8% for Optum, which is the division of the company that runs doctors' practices, technology, consulting and pharmacy benefits.

Zoom in: UnitedHealth's "medical loss ratio" in the quarter was 70.2% compared with 83.1% during the same time last year — meaning UnitedHealth paid out just 70 cents in medical claims for every dollar it received in premiums.

Yes, but: The company expects that ratio will rise later this year as more people get the care they delayed. UnitedHealth also said some of its commercial employers cut coverage for workers due to the pandemic, which affected its revenue.

Go deeper: UnitedHealth's political and financial heft just keeps growing

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Oct 22, 2020 - Health

FDA approves Gilead's remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment

A production line of Remdesivir. Photo: Fadel Dawood/picture alliance via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences on Thursday received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for remdesivir, an antiviral treatment that has shown modest results against treating COVID-19.

Why it matters: It's the first and only fully FDA-approved drug in the U.S. for treating the coronavirus.

Updated Oct 22, 2020 - World

France becomes 2nd Western European country to top 1M coronavirus cases

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Seine Saint Denis prefecture headquarters in Paris, on Tuesday. Photo: Ludovic Marin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

France has become the second country in Western Europe to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases, Johns Hopkins University data shows

The big picture: France had reported 1,000,369 cases and 34,075 deaths from the coronavirus by Thursday morning, per JHU. French President Emmanuel Macron declared a state of health emergency and imposed a curfew on virus hot spots earlier this month. Spain on Wednesday became the first Western European nation to top 1 million cases.

How the coronavirus pandemic could end

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's still the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, but history, biology and the knowledge gained from our first nine months with COVID-19 point to how the pandemic might end.

The big picture: Pandemics don't last forever. But when they end, it usually isn't because a virus disappears or is eliminated. Instead, they can settle into a population, becoming a constant background presence that occasionally flares up in local outbreaks.