Health Insurance Companies Rank 88 by Industry Profit Margin

by: Mark J. Perry

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 (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.