US health insurers doubled profits in second quarter amid pandemic | US news | The Guardian


Summary generated on August 14, 2020

    The enormous medical response in America to the coronavirus pandemic has not put a drain on US health insurers, which doubled profits in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same time last year.

    The US fight against the virus has been marked by overwhelmed hospitals, testing delays and personal protective equipment shortages, but the high profits reported by some insurers have underlined concerns about America's for-profit healthcare model.

    The country's largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, reported its profits were $6. 7bn in the second quarter of 2020 compared with $3. 4bn in last year's.

    Anthem's profits rose to $2. 3bn from $1. 1bn for the same three-month period in 2019.

    Humana reported last week its earnings rose to $1. 8bn, compared with $940m in 2019.

    Last week, the House energy and commerce committee said it was launching an investigation into health and dental insurance companies' business practices in response to the profits they have reaped during the crisis.

    After a short period of uncertainty, it became clear that the cost of providing medical care would be lower in 2020.

    People were avoiding the doctor's office and delaying elective surgeries such as knee replacement.

    Those with mild symptoms of Covid-19 were initially advised to stay home unless they needed urgent care.

    The money insurance companies collect each month from individuals, known as premiums, kept pouring in.

    The drop in spending was a benefit for insurers, but has left already struggling independent doctor's offices and rural hospitals vulnerable to closures and layoffs.

    In late July, 20% of clinicians had salaries skipped or deferred over the previous four weeks and 24% reported recent layoffs or furloughs, according to a survey of 523 physicians by the Primary Care Collaborative and the Larry A Green Center.