HCAN report blames health plans for rate hikes

The liberal grassroots group Health Care for America Now (HCAN) released a new report on Monday showing many health plans increased their rates prior to passage of healthcare reform legislation. The report comes as insurance company executives continue to argue that the new law does little to control healthcare costs and will cause many Americans' premiums to rise.

"Insurers typically lock in their rates in the fall of each year, but the health reform debate had not concluded by then," the report states. "Yet insurers are trying to claim that the rate hikes are associated with [the healthcare reform law] rather than their own greed." 

The report found that the five largest for-profit insurers raised rates by double digits and recorded large profits in the first quarter of 2010. WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Humana and CIGNA reported a combined net income of $3.17 billion, the report says, a 31 percent increase from the same period in 2009. 

At the same time, the share of premiums spent on care declined in most cases. Together, the report says, the five "set a full-year profit record in 2009 despite the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression." 

The breakdown:

  • WellPoint: $877 million in profits for the first quarter (up $296 million, or 51 percent, over the first quarter of 2009);
  • Humana: $259 million (up $53 million / 26 percent);
  • Aetna: $563 million (up $125 million / 29 percent);
  • UnitedHealth: $1.19 billion (up $207 million / 21 percent);
  • Cigna: $283 million (up $75 million / 36 percent).