Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care

  1. the nation's major health insurers are barreling into a third year of record profits, enriched in recent months by a lingering recessionary mind-set among americans who are postponing or forgoing medical care.

    the [color=#004276]unitedhealth group, one of the largest commercial insurers, told analysts that so far this year, insured hospital stays actually decreased in some instances. in reporting its earnings last week, [color=#004276]cigna, another insurer, talked about the "low level" of medical use.
    yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends. many defend proposed double-digit increases in the rates they charge, citing a need for protection against any sudden uptick in demand once people have more money to spend on their health, as well as the rising price of care. ...

    ...high deductibles also can be daunting. david welch, a nurse in california whose policy has a $4,000 deductible, said he was surprised to realize he had delayed going to the dermatologist, even though he had a history of [color=#004276]skin cancer. mr. welch, who has been a supporter of the need to overhaul insurance industry practices for the california nurses association union, said he hoped his medical training would help him determine when to go to the doctor. "i underestimated how much that cost would affect my behavior," he said. ...

    ...and while the slowing down of demand is good for insurers, at least in the short term, the concern is that patients may be tempted to skip important tests like [color=#004276]colonoscopies or [color=#004276]mammograms. the new health care law will eventually prevent most policies from charging patients for certain kinds of preventive care, but some plans still require someone to pay $500 toward a colonoscopy. ...
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