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Pixabay

Phoenix-based Banner Health knew it was taking on an unprofitable venture when it acquired the University of Arizona Medical Center in 2015 — including its health insurance plans. Some problems still exist or have gotten worse.

The $7.6 billion Banner improved its profitability in 2016 with a 2.1% operating margin, up from 1.8% in 2015, according to audited financials released Tuesday. But that's mostly because Banner's hospitals and clinics made up for the shortfall in the health insurance operations, which were part of the University of Arizona deal. The operating losses at Banner's health plans quadrupled from 2015 to 2016, totaling $154 million. It's yet another example of a health system struggling to own an insurance company.

There's an Obamacare angle: Banner's losses from its commercial health plans were 27 times higher in 2016. The system blamed the collapse of Arizona's Obamacare marketplace, where most insurers have exited and "resulted in significant numbers of high-cost enrollees migrating to Banner narrow-network products in 2016," executives wrote to bondholders.

Go deeper

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — America has tuned out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction — 1 in 3 people in L.A. County believed to have been infected with coronavirus.
  2. Politics: Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan— Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat — Joe Biden will seek nearly $2 trillion in COVID relief spending.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

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