UnitedHealth Group on Wednesday started the life, health and annuity issuer earnings release season for the fourth quarter of 2021 — and its experience showed that the COVID-19 pandemic is still shaping how Wall Street sees the life and health world, almost two years after news reports about a strange disease outbreak in China began making news.

The Minnetonka, Minnesota-based health insurance giant reported $4.2 billion in net income for the quarter on $74 billion in revenue. That’s up from $2.2 billion in net income on $65 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2020.

The fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2021.

Executives said pandemic-related decreases in use of ordinary health care made up for higher COVID-19 care costs.

But UnitedHealth executives themselves brought up the company’s pandemic response efforts several times on a conference call the company held to go over the results, and analysts asked several times about the current COVID-19 surge and the new national home COVID-19 test kit distribution program.

Some other publicly traded life, health and annuity issuers are set to announce fourth-quarter results later this month, but most have scheduled earnings release dates in February.

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