It's stories like these that make me really worry. I'm afraid that the people running our country are literally insane. Despite our ongoing economic troubles, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius continues to attack the health insurance industry for returning value to shareholders. The title of her department's "report" is especially ridiculous.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Thursday unveiled a government report which she said “shines a light on the urgency for health reform,” and pins the rise of premiums in the individual healthcare market squarely on the profit margins of large insurance companies. ...
The report, which is titled “Insurance Companies Prosper, Families Suffer: Our Broken Health Insurance System,” says that increases of that magnitude are not unique. It cites Anthem of Connecticut for requesting a 24 percent rate hike in 2009; Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan for a requested 56 percent rate increase last year; and Regency Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon for a 20 percent premium increase.
“The five largest insurers in America have declared more than $12 billion worth of profits in 2009,” Sebelius said. “[Anthem Blue Cross of California] alone posted a $2.7 billion profit in the fourth quarter of 2009, just a week before they filed for a 39 percent rate increase.”
So... when General Motors and Chrysler go bankrupt the government nationalizes them, and when the health care industry makes a profit the government wants to nationalize them. It's almost like our government wants to nationalize industries under any and every circumstance!
The New York Times puts the insurance profits into perspective.
The insurance industry said the report was incomplete. “Comparing the profits of individual companies today to where they were at the bottom of a recession a year ago does not tell the whole story,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group.
Historically, Mr. Zirkelbach said, the average profit margin for the industry has been relatively low, 3 percent to 5 percent. For example, he said, if a company made a 2 percent profit last year during the recession and is making 4 percent now, its profits would have increased by 100 percent but the profit would still only be 4 percent.
“For every dollar spent on health care in America, less than one penny goes toward health plan profits,” he said. “Health plan profits are well below other industries within the health care sector.”
David Palombi, a spokesman for WellPoint, said Anthem’s profit margin in California “is in line with, or below, many of its competitors, including our two large not-for-profit competitors.”
I'm pretty sure Sebelius and her ilk believe what they're saying, but sincerity is no defense against the appearance of insanity.