“It is particularly glaring and inappropriate in a pandemic.”
UnitedHealth reported $6.7 billion in second-quarter profits, nearly double its $3.4 billion profit in Q2 2019
The Guardian – The enormous medical response in America to the coronavirus pandemic has not put a drain on US health insurers, which doubled profits in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same time last year.
The US fight against the virus has been marked by overwhelmed hospitals, testing delays and personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, but the high profits reported by some insurers have underlined concerns about America’s for-profit healthcare model.
The country’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, reported its profits were $6.7 billion in the second quarter of 2020 compared with $3.4bn in last year’s. Anthem’s profits rose to $2.3bn from $1.1bn for the same three-month period in 2019. Humana reported last week its earnings rose to $1.8 billion, compared with $940 million in 2019.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a longtime advocate of single-payer healthcare and a professor at New York’s Hunter College, said in normal circumstances she considered the billions insurance companies collect a “scandal”.
“It is particularly glaring and inappropriate in a pandemic,” said Woolhandler, a co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program.
Last week, the House energy and commerce committee said it was launching an investigation into health and dental insurance companies’ business practices in response to the profits they have reaped during the crisis.
There is, however, a simple explanation for the increases.
After a short period of uncertainty, it became clear that the cost of providing medical care would be lower in 2020.
People were avoiding the doctor’s office and delaying elective surgeries such as knee replacement. Those with mild symptoms of Covid-19 were initially advised to stay home unless they needed urgent care.
But the money insurance companies collect each month from individuals, known as premiums, kept pouring in.
“Private insurance companies make money by taking in premiums and not paying for care,” Woolhandler said … Read more.