With taxpayer help, insurance companies make good money

Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in the Obama administration, the woes of insurance companies and premium-paying customers have always been front-page news as the shock-to-the-system health care law gets implemented.

But what’s this? The nonprofit insurance companies in Minnesota have made a ton of money in the last year, the Star Tribune reports in its business section.

Operating income more than doubled in 2017.

“When medical bills aren’t as high as a company expected, the people get rebates,” Patsy Riley, interim president of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, said in a statement to the Strib. “This part of the law ensures the money people pay for premiums goes for care.”

Taxpayers fronted the insurance companies millions to guard against higher costs, socializing the risk and privatizing the reward in a scheme known as “reinsurance,” the continuation of which is now being debated at the Capitol.

“Today’s report shows that reinsurance worked,” Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, said in a statement. “It suggests we should expect another reduction in premiums — which are already the lowest in the nation — for next year after the required rate review.”

But Minneapolis Jeff Hayden said it proves that “reinsurance” just took taxpayer money and put it in the pocket of the insurance companies.

The reinsurance wasn’t entirely responsible for the profits. In 2017, Minnesota allowed for-profit companies to serve as HMOs.

By law under the ACA, the insurance companies have to “rebate” some of their profits to policyholders, although it’s not clear how much might go to an individual customer.