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UnitedHealth's headquarters in Minnesota. Photo: Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

UnitedHealth Group's stock fell 2.3% yesterday even though the company continues to print money and raised its profit projections for the rest of the year.

The big picture: Wall Street is quibbling over the "quality" of UnitedHealth's earnings beat, but that doesn't really matter. UnitedHealth remains the most financially powerful private entity in the U.S. health care system, and any reforms would be up against its growing empire.

By the numbers: UnitedHealth is not just a health insurance company, but that is still its biggest component.

  • 39 million people had full-scale medical coverage through UnitedHealthcare as of June 30. About two-thirds of its insurance premium revenue comes from government programs.
  • UnitedHealth continues to expand OptumRx, which is part of the pharmacy benefits triumvirate that controls how prescription drugs are paid for.
  • Perhaps most importantly, UnitedHealth increasingly is becoming your surgeon or doctor, and now it's taking over back-end operations for hospitals.

Why it matters: Because UnitedHealth touches almost every part of the health care system, it has every incentive to keep certain policies as they are or push for reforms that benefit its shareholders.

  • UnitedHealth retains 9 outside lobbying firms in addition to its own stable of state and federal lobbyists.
  • On the federal level, they have aggressively worked to eliminate the Affordable Care Act's tax on health insurers, won the battle over the drug rebate rule and have pushed for other things like expanding short-term plans.
  • UnitedHealth is also part of the national coalition to kill "Medicare for All" and actively denounced Medicare for All earlier this year.

The bottom line: Wall Street's reactions shouldn't obscure just how much power UnitedHealth Group has and continues to accumulate.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.

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