Fact Check: Lines of Business Obscure Profit Margins

Download PDF Report >>> Lines of Business Obscure Profit Margins

FACT CHECK: In 2009, the percentage of premiums that went towards administrative costs and profits declined for the sixth year in a row and have been consistent for decades.

FACT CHECK CHECKED: America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) combines self-insured line of business (LOB) and insured LOB and presents the results as if it were one homogeneous market.   Nothing could be further from the truth. Size wise, the ratio of self insured LOB to insured LOB is roughly 58% / 42% of self-insured / insured or underwritten.

Insurers charge self-insured (ASO – administrative service only) groups an administrative fee that, for the top 10 health insurers, averaged 6.94% of costs.  That translates to 6.5% of “premiums” which are really medical benefits plus service fee income.  This “efficient” administrative expense is not evident in the insured LOB.

To identify the administrative costs and profits for the insured group, one computes and then removes the self-insured revenues and expenses from the CMS Totals as shown in the table below.  Sources and stepwise methodology (top to bottom) are shown in the far right column.

The claim that insurers’ average percentage of premiums that went towards administrative costs and profits was around 11.75% (and have been consistent for decades) totally obscures two radically different lines of business with divergent expense ratios.   For 2008, self-insured admin costs and profits were about 6.5% for self-insured groups, but about 18% for insured groups.  Since the profit margin is VERY slim for the self insured, the bulk of profits are born on the backs of the insured groups which include small business and individuals. A reasonable question to ask is “why are insurers satisfied with profit margins of well under 1% on 55 % of their business but feel a need to push margins well beyond 10% on 45% of their business?”  Though risk is a small factor in the insured LOB, they have to compete far harder on self-insured LOB than on insured LOB where they hold oligopoly power in local market areas and convert that market power into profits.

Download PDF Report >>> Lines of Business Obscure Profit Margins

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