Minn. HMO profits keep rolling in

Minnesota's largest health plans enjoyed healthy profits for the third year in a row, despite returning more than $100 million to the Medicaid program.

That's according to the annual Minnesota Health Market Review, which tracks trends in the state's health care market.

The report finds Minnesota's largest HMOs earned $230 million in 2011, about one third of that from investment income. The plans repaid $103 million to Medicaid based on a profit cap negotiated with the state. Report author Allan Baumgarten says premiums continued to go up while payment for medical care went down.

"The spread grew sharply in 2011," he said.

The findings dovetail with national trends that show the recession has been good for health insurers. Policyholders have cut back on doctor visits because of tight finances and higher out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays.

The report finds the HMOs have $1 billion more in reserve than required by law.

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