WASHINGTON, February 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today blasted the country’s five largest health insurance companies that posted $12.2 billion in profits last year, 56 percent more than in 2008.
“In the midst of the worst recession in memory, with working families struggling to keep their heads above water, insurance companies are siphoning more and more profits out of American consumers,” said Sanders, a member of the Senate health committee.
“These horrendous rate increases will not only impact millions of individuals, but make our entire economy less competitive,” he added. “This outrage is more evidence, as if any were needed, that we cannot stop fighting to reform the health care system in the United States.”
Health Care for America Now conducted a study of public records and found that WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group, Cigna Corp., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. covered 2.7 million fewer people than they did the year before. Some of the insurers actually cut the proportion of premiums that went to medical care and put more into salaries and profits.
The companies' 2009 profits soared while insurers raised premiums and denied coverage to millions of Americans.
WellPoint's profit margin of 7.2 percent was the highest of the five big insurers. Anthem Blue Cross, a California subsidiary of WellPoint, has come under fire for jacking up premiums by as much as 39 percent this year on some individual health policies.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius insisted that the company justify the rate increase in detail. "Look," Sen. Sanders said, "insurance companies are ripping off the American people from coast to coast. It is absolutely appropriate for the secretary of Health and Human Services to call them out on that."