Health Insurers in Florida had an off year in 2007.
While profits from the largest health insurance carriers in the state soared to $720 million for the year 2006, they were down $170 million in 2007.
That means the largest seven insurers who represent 71 percent of the state’s health insurance market raked in $550 million last year.
The companies include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida at $182 million in profit, Humana at $134.7 million and Aetna $100 million in profits.
The data was gathered from annual financial statements filed with the state and reviewed by the Florida Health Care Coalition, a nonprofit group that represents large employers.
Becky Cherney, CEO tells the Palm Beach Post, “They’ve run off with the money and not reached out to invest in places where they can help solve the problems.”
She is referring to a plan by Governor Charlie Crist, no fan of the insurance companies, to direct insurance profits toward helping children with autism. He has established the Task Force on Autism Spectrum Disorders to address the growing health crisis of autism.
And the governor has backed a plan in the state legislature that allows the big companies to sell no-frill plans to cover the uninsured.
Brill Newton of the Tampa-based Consumer Action Network (CAN) tells IB News his concern is the low cost plans may offer little coverage. “What happens if you get one of those diseases even though the odds are low? We would hope for the widest possible coverage and on getting preventative care.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida says it intentionally kept its profit margin low this year so more small companies would be able to afford health insurance for their employees, the target of the company's latest aggressive advertising.
Newton of CAN laughs.
“They did it to move more products,” he tells IB News citing more competition in the marketplace from lower cost health insurers.
With states working on their own solutions to fund health care, Newton says CAN is part of the Healthy Florida Alliance a coalition of nonprofit government and health groups seeking a one dollar a pack tax on tobacco to fund health care in the state, admitted an uphill fight for the legislature, reluctant to go up against tobacco companies.
Sondra Tucker, spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield points out with medical cost increases of about 12 percent, her company had an overall 2.2 profit margin last year, lower than most carriers.
Still employers facing up to a 24 percent hike in insurance premiums for employees are balking.
Employers such as Bobra Bush owner of a Boca Raton company says she is used to facing 10 percent insurance hikes each year. She tells the Palm Beach Post after hearing about the profits this year, “I want some money back”. #