While the money was pouring in, health insurers begged Congress for assistance.
This article was written in collaboration with Capital & Main.
Last year, while America’s health insurance behemoths hauled in record profits in the midst of a devastating pandemic, defenders of the revenue grab pointed to 2021 as the date at which everything will balance out. Industry insiders expected that people who had been hesitant to visit the doctor or had put off an elective surgery would flock to the doctor in droves in the new year. Insurance firms would begin to pay out more claims while losing money.
Instead, the year 2021 is shaping up to be a record-breaking year for the insurance behemoths. Even while hospitals, tiny clinics, and rural facilities struggle to stay afloat and meet for-profit owners’ profit targets, the firms who collect their patients’ premiums are having a ball.
UnitedHealth Group, the country’s largest health insurer, had a very excellent first quarter, earning $5 billion in profit in that three-month period. The result reflects a 45 percent rise over the $3.6 billion profit the company made in the first quarter of 2020, prompting the corporation to revise its predictions for the remainder of the year.
The insurer wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Anthem, like UnitedHealth, is a major player in the Medicaid/Medicare market, and its profits increased by 9% in the first quarter. In August, Humana reported a 75 percent increase in net income over the previous year, and CVS Health, which owns Aetna’s insurance arm in addition to its drugstores, announced a $2.2 billion profit, up from $2 billion the year before.
These figures represent a schism in America’s flawed health-care system. Patients fearing COVID infection canceled routine physical checkups, dental care, and other services, leaving many hospitals and clinics in serious financial problems in 2020 and early 2021. Most hospitals also postponed profitable non-emergency treatments, such as knee and hip replacements, in order to make room for COVID patients. Despite this, hospitals were sometimes overburdened, with intensive care units in particular struggling for equipment and bed space.
That isn’t where the real money is to be found. It helps to be a corporation that collects premiums from patients who rarely or never utilize the health-care system if you want to make a lot of money. Not only did this happen throughout the year of 2020, but it also happened in the year before. This is a condensed version of the information.