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I've posted several times before about the profitability of the "Health Care Plans" industry, see posts here and here, and reported previously that the health insurance industry ranked #86 by profit margin out of 215 industries, at 3.3%.

Update data are now available
for Q4 of 2009, and the Health Care Plan industry (includes Humana (NYSE:HUM), Aetna (NYSE:AET), WellPoint (NYSE:WLP), Magellan (NASDAQ:MGLN), Unitedhealth Group (NYSE:UNH), etc.), and the health insurance industry slipped to #88 with a profit margin of 3.4%. Actually, that industry profit margin was boosted by WellPoint's 18% profit margin for Q4 2009, which was due largely to a one-time sale of its Pharmacy Benefit Management division. Without that sale, WellPoint's profit margin would have been only 3.9%, the industry average profit margin would have been closer to 3%, and the ranking for the industry would have fallen a few places down to #92.

America's Health Insurance Plans ((
AHIP)), the industry's trade association representing 1,300 members, reported last October that annual health insurance premiums averaged $2,985 for individual coverage and $6,328 for family plans in 2009. Using the industry average profit margin of 3.4% means that insurance companies make about $100 per policy in profits for individual coverage, and a little more than $200 in profits for each family policy.

So even if we could strip away 100% of the health insurance industry's profits, it would only save patients between $100 and 200 per year in health insurance costs.

Source: Health Insurance Companies Rank 88 by Industry Profit Margin