Insurers with high profits asked to decrease premiums

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) is calling on 10 health insurers that reported significant increases in profits to lower premiums for their customers. He also requested the insurance companies respond with their plans to do so. 

In a letter to the insurers, Stark noted that they have reported more than $9.3 billion in profits for the first three quarters of the year--which is $2.1 billion more than the same period in 2009. The largest dollar increase in profits was reported by UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH), which saw a rise of $713 million, or 24.3 percent, from 2009 to 2010. In terms of percentage, the largest increase was at Coventry, which saw a 116 percent increase in profits, rising from $133 million to $288 million, according to CQ Health Beat.

"Over the past decade, premiums for workers and employers have more than doubled, while family incomes have remained stagnant," Stark wrote in his letter to Wellpoint, Amerigroup, Healthspring, Health Net, UnitedHealth Group, Humana, Molina Healthcare, Centene, Aetna and Coventry. "I call upon your companies to share the billions you are reaping in higher profits with your policyholders by lowering premiums," he said.

AHIP spokesperson Robert Zirkelbach responded, saying that Democrats shouldn't focus on insurers' profits, but rather the overall cost of healthcare. "The data are clear that underlying medical costs are driving up the cost of healthcare coverage. For every dollar spent on healthcare in America, less than one penny goes towards health plan profits, and it's time Washington addressed the other 99 cents," he told the Huffington Post. Zirkelbach added that health insurance profits are lower than returns in other healthcare sectors.

To learn more:
- check out the CQ Health Beat article
- read Stark's letter
- read the Huffington Post story