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Advocacy group challenges health insurance company profits Posted: March 7th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

After analyzing health insurance profits from 2008-2010, a national grassroots coalition is charging that five of the nation's largest publicly traded health insurance companies put shareholders ahead of subscribers. According to Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a national grassroots coalition of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states, the quintet of companies studied earned nearly $12 billion in three years.

The five health insurance companies included in the HCAN analysis:

  1. Aetna
  2. UnitedHealth Group
  3. WellPoint
  4. Humana
  5. Cigna

The insurers collectively saw profits increase an average of 51 percent, ranging from 16 percent for WellPoint to 361 percent for Cigna, according to HCAN. Medical loss ratios, defined as the amount of premium dollars spent on medical care, decreased for all the companies except Humana, HCAN said. In addition, health insurance company CEOs saw compensation increase 167 percent in 2009.

Private health plans managed by the five companies decreased in membership by 3.9 percent during the period. Meanwhile, insurers appeared to turn to privately managed Medicaid, Medicare and military plans to boost enrollments. Those medical insurance options saw a 15.9 percent increase in subscribers, HCAN said.