For US health insurance companies, the recession never took place.

According to “Health Care for America Now” (HCAN), the combined profits of the biggest health insurance companies in the US increased by 51 per cent during the recession and its aftermath. This may have something to do with premiums which rose by 131 per cent since 1999 – twice the rate of medical inflation.

As a percentage, insurance companies are spending less of the premiums on medical care and more on administrative costs, including extravagant CEO pay, marketing, lobbying and what HCAN describes as the “care-denial bureaucracy.”

Under the consumer protection provision of the US Affordable Care Act, as many as nine million customers will be eligible for rebates totalling as much as $1.4 billion.

In the first quarter of 2011 the combined profits of the five largest American insurance companies surged 14 per cent to $3.6 billion.

The US has the least efficient health care system in the developed world. Is it any wonder?

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