Thursday, July 19, 2007

Insurer Profits Up (again) While Seniors & Taxpayers Pay the Price

Not only are insurers receiving billions in government subsidies to operate private Medicare plans but new profit numbers out this week show business is very good if you’re an insurance company with a piece of the Medicare privatization pie.

“UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer, said profit rose 22 percent on gains from government-sponsored medical programs.”… United Health Profit Rises on Government Medical Plans , Bloomberg 7/19/07

“Health insurer Humana Inc. on Wednesday reported higher-than-expected second-quarter profit, mainly because of improving cost trends, and its shares rose as much as 10.4 percent to a record high. The company,one of the largest providers of Medicare health plans for the elderly, also rasied its full-year earnings forecast, which easily topped Wall Street's forecasts.” … Humana Profit Beats Outlook, Reuters, 07/18/07

Remember that while private insurers collect these record high profits the government is also paying them $1,000 on average more per beneficiary to provide health care coverage already provided by traditional Medicare. And, a married couple on Medicare is now paying $48 more in annual premiums to help cover billions in overpayments to insurers. These overpayments have cut two years from Medicare’s solvency according to the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). MedPAC also estimates that in the case of Private Fee-for-Service plans only half of the excess payments to insurers are being used for extra benefits to seniors. It’s easy to see where the rest may be going…

“Humana has now raised its full-year forecast twice in the past two
months. However, the company's bullish outlook may not play well with U.S.lawmakers as they weigh whether Medicare Advantage reimbursements are too rich,CIBC's McDonald said. ‘If Congress is arguing already that they overpay you, and then you come out and you beat numbers and raise guidance on better Medicare margins, you wonder if that just gives Congress more ammunition to cut rates,’ McDonald said.”…Reuters

We can only hope.

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