MINNEAPOLIS — UnitedHealth Group beat analyst expectations for fourth quarter profit, as its fast-growing Optum division for health care services hit the $100 billion mark for annual revenue, the company reported last week.

The Minnetonka, Minn.-based company, which also operates the nation’s largest health insurer, posted $3 billion in earnings on $58.4 billion of total revenue during the fourth quarter, with profit slipping from $3.6 billion in the year-ago quarter.

The results from the comparable period in 2017 were boosted by a favorable noncash revaluation of deferred tax liability with the federal government’s tax overhaul. Excluding the tax impact, the net adjusted margin grew to 5.2 percent, UnitedHealth says.

Adjusted earnings per share, which removes one-time factors, came in at $3.28 per share, seven cents better than expected among analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division for health services provides medical care through clinics, surgery centers and urgent care and offers data and IT consulting to doctors and hospitals. Optum is also one of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical benefit manages (PBMs), which handle the pharmacy portion of insurance benefits for health plans.

Full-year 2018 revenue at Optum grew 11 percent to $101.3 billion.

The company’s UnitedHealthcare health insurance business saw U.S. membership decline slightly in the fourth quarter to just under 42.9 million people, offset by growth in health plan membership in South America.

Tribune News Service