Health insurers turn to financial services

Yesterday, our sister publication FierceHealthFinance told you about the growth in consumer deposits to health savings accounts, the nifty tax-advantaged vehicles consumers can use to pay for the high deductibles on their "consumer-directed" health plans. Not surprisingly, insurance companies have been responding to this trend with some strategic moves of their own.

Apparently, some insurance companies believe it is to reinvent themselves as financial services companies and get out of the sinking ship of traditional health insurance. For example, WellPoint is a health insurance company, right? Well, no. Actually, it has convinced the Federal Reserve Board that its primary business was financial services. Health insurance was just "complementary" to that main business.

WellPoint is just the most recent health insurance-related entity to go into the HSA business. As we've previously noted, CDHPs and HSAs are a growing business in which insurance companies (or is it financial service companies?) stand to earn a lot of money. For example, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association launched its own HSA-focused "Blue Healthcare Bank" about a year and a half ago, co-owned by 33 BCBS companies. Another case in point is Exante Bank, which was chartered in January 2002 by health plan operating company UnitedHealth Group.

To learn more about health insurers turned money managers:
- Read this L.A. Times piece