UnitedHealthcare vs. Aetna vs. Centene: 10 key comparisons to know in 2023

UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and Centene are three of the largest healthcare payers in the U.S. 

Here's how the organizations stack up across 10 areas:

1. Number of plan holders: 

2. Affiliated hospitals and healthcare facilities:

  • UnitedHealthcare: 6,500+ 
  • Aetna: 5,700+
  • Centene: N/A

3. Leaders:

  • UnitedHealthcare: Brian Thompson is CEO of UnitedHealthcare. He was previously CEO of the organization's government programs, including Medicare and retirement. He has also served as CFO for the company's employer and individual, community and state, and Medicare and retirement businesses. He has been with the company since 2004. 
  • Aetna: Brian Kane will become president of Aetna and executive vice president of CVS Health, Aetna's parent company, in September. He has previously served as CFO for Humana.
  • Centene: Sarah London is CEO of Centene. She was previously the company's vice chair. Prior to Centene, she was the operating partner at Optum Ventures, a venture capital subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. She has also served as vice president of client services and chief product officer for Optum Analytics. 

4. First quarter 2023 revenue:

  • UnitedHealthcare: $70.5 billion
  • Aetna: $25.9 billion
  • Centene: $38.89 billion

5. Affiliated physicians

  • UnitedHealthcare: Over 1.3 million
  • Aetna: 1.2 million
  • Centene: N/A

6. Number of employees

  • UnitedHealthcare: 125,000+
  • Aetna: 47,950
  • Centene: 67,200

7. Headquarters

  • UnitedHealthcare: Minnetonka, Minn.
  • Aetna: Hartford, Conn.
  • Centene: St. Louis

8. Year founded

  • UnitedHealthcare: 1977
  • Aetna: 1853
  • Centene: 1984

9. Core business

  • UnitedHealthcare: UHC is the health benefits leg of UnitedHealth Group. It offers healthcare plans for individuals, employers as well as government-sponsored beneficiaries. 
  • Aetna: Aetna provides medical, pharmacy, dental, Medicare and Medicaid plans. It also offers behavioral health programs, medical management and insurance and employee benefit products. 
  • Centene: Centene is the largest Medicaid managed care organization in the U.S. It works mostly to provide government-sponsored healthcare plans. 

10. Notable news in 2023

  • UnitedHealthcare: Here are 21 stories Becker's has covered about UnitedHealth Group, parent company of UnitedHealthcare, Optum Health and ASC management company SCA Health, from the last 60 days.
  • Aetna: Explore 24 stories Becker's has covered about Aetna and its parent company, CVS Health, since March 2.
  • Centene: Read 25 Centene updates Becker's has covered since Feb. 8.

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