HEALTH PLANS: Profits up to $10 Billion in 2003, doubling 2002’s level

As if you didn’t know it, 2003 was a very good year for health plans. Weiss Ratings has published a table showing that several, including non-profits Kaiser & Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound had excellent years. (Although Kaiser’s looked better than it actually was due to an accounting change) Overall HMOs posted profits of $10.2 Billion in 2003, nearly doubling their 2002 numbers. The dark days of 1998 look long gone.

Except that there remains this nasty thing called the underwriting cycle, and we are already seeing premium rates start to slowly fall (down to the 7-8% increase level). It’s a little early to be crying wolf just yet, but I still maintain that this is as good as it’s going to get for insurers, and that their stock prices are overvalued. Of course, whatever you think about them you can’t sell Kaiser or Group Health short!

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