UnitedHealth Group may not be on the hunt to acquire a rival, but when the nation's largest insurer kicks off earnings season for the health insurance sector on Thursday, industry consolidation will be a big topic for analysts and investors.
"Obviously, we'll ask questions about the deals, and I suspect management won't be able to comment on it," said David Toung, health-care analyst with Argus Research.
Near term, it's health-care cost trends that he's concerned about.
When Aetna announced it had reached a $37 billion agreement to buy rival Humana, the news was accompanied by an earnings warning at Humana, the leading provider of Medicare Advantage plans. Higher-than-expected hospital costs among its senior citizen members, had hurt its bottom line.