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Vancouver, Washington

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Don Jacobs
Don Jacobs
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Private Health Insurance Profits Soar

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Health insurance is expensive. Small business people are especially hurt by the rising costs to cover employees. And good luck finding affordable coverage if you are self employed. The rates for self employed even healthy people are sobering. So it must mean that health insurance companies are struggling right? They keep raising the rates and finding more and more conditions they don’t cover. Deductibles keep going up and each of us is asked to pay more and more of our medical bills even with supposedly good health coverage. Take a look at a recent report "Insuring Health or Ensuring Profit?; A look at the Financial Gains of Washington’s Health Insurers." According to the report, the big three carriers in Washington, Regence BlueShield, Premera Blue Cross and Group Health Cooperative saw profits increase from $11 million in 2002 to $243 million in 2003 and $431 million in 2006. Their cash surplus went from $833 million in 2002 to $2.2 billion (with a "B") in 2006. Interestingly enough they did it while covering less people. Over 2.37 million people were covered by the three in 2002 compared to 1.9 million in 2006. So the cost of health care is still going up, but the profits by private health insurance companies are rising even faster. The article shows medical costs rose 16 percent in the same period that health insurance profits went up 23 percent. In 2007, Washington legislators tried to pass a law allowing the Insurance Commissioner to regulate health insurance rates. The law failed. I wonder who lobbied lawmakers to stop it? Consumers who like paying higher insurance rates?