As if to mock the Democrats' loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat and the subsequent and rapid unraveling of a healthcare bill that seemed determined to curb the excesses of the US health insurance industry, the largest US health insurer announced Thursday morning that its fourth quarter profits had climbed a whopping 30 percent.

UnitedHealth, the largest US health insurer by market capitalization, posted earnings of $944 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from $726 million in 2008.

The profit totals topped analyst estimates.

And, as if to add salt to the wound, an analyst for Goldman Sachs -- itself the target of post-bailout ire -- added that he thought the insurer's profits were "very solid" in a research note and said "they bode well for other managed care companies."