Top Health Insurers Profits Climbed 56% in 2009

08:27 AM CST on Friday, February 12, 2010

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – As the nation struggled last year with rising health care costs and a recession, the five largest health insurance companies racked up combined profits of $12.2 billion – up 56 percent over 2008, according to a new report by a liberal health care coalition.

Based on company financial reports for 2009 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the report said insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group, Cigna Corp., Aetna and Humana Inc. covered 2.7 million fewer people than they did the year before.

The report Thursday also said three of the five insurers cut the proportion of premiums they spent on their customers’ medical care, committing relatively more to salaries, administrative expenses and profits.

Prepared by Heath Care for America Now, a coalition of liberal advocacy groups and labor unions, the report was aimed at bolstering the drive by Democrats to complete work on a health care overhaul, which insurers have vigorously opposed.

Industry representatives Thursday criticized the report’s approach, pointing out that 2008 was a bad year financially across many industries, skewing the 2009 comparison.

“It is disingenuous to look at the profits at one company today compared to where it was in the depth of a recession,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s Washington-based lobbying arm. The companies’ 2009 profits are nonetheless intensifying pressure on an industry already under attack for raising premiums and denying coverage to millions of Americans.

“That’s why we need health insurance reform today in this country and why we are going to continue in the Congress to work on this until we see it through,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

Editor’s Note: This article was sent to us by our undercover operative in Dallas, a San Benito native who has made good in the Big City. Rumor has it that he is directly related to Baldimar Huerta, better known as Freddy Fender of country western fame. Forgoing a lucrative career as a professional bull fighter based out of Tamulipas, Mexico, Big Al heads up the Dallas office of a major stop loss carrier. Keep them coming Al!

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