“As I noted in my last post, UnitedHealth Group made more profits last year than any health insurer has ever made for its shareholders — and considerably more than Wall Street financial analysts had expected,” Wendell Potter writes over at his Substack, Wendell Potter NOW. “Investors were so impressed they rushed to buy shares of the company’s stock. That might not have surprised you. United and other big insurers have reported record profits every year over the past decade. What might surprise you, though, is that even if you are not enrolled in a United health plan, some of your money likely wound up in the pockets of United’s already rich shareholders. That’s because you and America’s other taxpayers increasingly are fueling United’s profits. In its press release last week, United … said the company had 10.5 million more ‘members’ in its health plans in 2021 than in 2011. But when you look more closely at the numbers and do some math, you’ll see that very little of that growth has been in the private sector. … In 2021, United insured nearly 1.6 million fewer people in its commercial risk division — the part of the company in which United is actually the insurer — than it did in 2011. The 7,985,000 people in United’s commercial risk plans last year (including people who buy coverage on their own through the A.C.A. marketplace) are folks who typically don’t have access to coverage through an employer. (In 2011 United had 9,550,000 in its commercial risk plans.) The number of people covered in plans United administers for employers and other large groups grew by only 2,275,000 between 2011 and 2021. Keep in mind that United and its competitors do not insure people enrolled in these group plans. They make money by charging their employer (and in some cases union) customers (who are the actual insurers) a hefty fee to administer their workers’ health plan benefits. … United’s private sector membership increased by only 710,000 between 2011 and 2021. … And when you do just a little more math, you’ll discover that 72% of the $222.9 billion in revenue United’s health plan division took in last year came from you and me through the taxes we fork over to our Uncle Sam and the additional premiums many Medicare beneficiaries pay the company to cover their out-of-pocket expenses.” Wendell Potter, “In 2021, 72% of UnitedHealth’s $222.9 billion revenue came from taxpayers,” Wendell Potter NOW, Substack.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.