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UnitedHealth CEO sees lower COVID-19 costs ahead, keeps eye on Omicron

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FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of the UnitedHealth Group appears on the side of one of their office buildings in Santa Ana, California

NEW YORK (Reuters) - UnitedHealth Group Inc Chief Executive Andrew Witty said on Tuesday the company expected COVID-19 to have less impact on 2022 earnings than this year or last, but that it was too soon to say if the new Omicron variant would change that view.

UnitedHealth, with businesses in health insurance, pharmacy benefit management, and healthcare services and technology, estimated 2022 earnings of $21.10 to $21.60 per share. The impact of COVID-19 in 2022 should be about half of that in 2021, mostly in the insurance business, the company told investors during a webcast meeting.

Last week South Africa reported on a new variant, now called Omicron, whose vast mutations have prompted vaccine makers and others to study how vaccines would fare against it. Scientists around the world are also trying to determine whether the variant is more transmissible or causes people to become sicker than the Delta variant that now dominates the world.

"It's just too early to judge whether that news is a material change or not to how we should expect next year to play out," Witty said in an interview following the meeting. "I'm very much in the camp that you have to give the scientific community time."

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Richard Chang)

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