Sep 24, 2019

The Blue Cross Blue Shield tax break rolls on

Health Care Service Corp. headquarters (right). Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Health Care Service Corp., the parent of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in 5 states, did not pay any federal income taxes in the first half of 2019. Instead, it got a $454 million tax refund, according to company financial documents.

The big picture: This comes after HCSC received a $1.7 billion federal tax refund in 2018 and highlights how Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers continue to be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the 2017 Republican tax overhaul.

By the numbers: HCSC's net profit in the first half of 2019, including the $454 million refund, topped $2.3 billion. These figures do not reflect the corporation's self-insured business with employers.

  • HCSC was sitting on a $19.1 billion cash reserve as of June 30, several billion dollars more than competing insurers, including its publicly traded Blues brethren Anthem.

What we're watching: HCSC has $323 million of unpaid rebates that need to go out to consumers who were overcharged for insurance.

Between the lines: HCSC and other state Blue Cross Blue Shield plans heavily lobbied Congress and the White House to enact changes to the tax code starting in 2018. This was why.

Go deeper

Big Blue Cross health insurers call off merger

Cambia Health Solutions and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina have terminated their merger talks.

Between the lines: The deal derailed after Patrick Conway, BCBS of NC's former CEO and a former top Medicare official, allegedly hit another car while driving under the influence of alcohol, which led to his resignation.

Keep ReadingArrowOct 14, 2019

FTC wants data on merging hospitals

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Five health insurers and two hospital systems have until January to send patient billing data, salary data and other information to the Federal Trade Commission as part of a study looking into hospital merger reviews.

Why it matters: The FTC has been skeptical of so-called "certificates of public advantage" — policies that some states adopt as a workaround to approve hospital mergers while avoiding federal antitrust scrutiny.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019

Scoop: Bernie Sanders one-ups Warren with his own wealth tax

Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders has released a wealth tax that's even more aggressive than Sen. Elizabeth Warren's "ultra-millionaire tax." Axios first reported Sanders' proposal.

Why it matters: Sanders keeps trying to remind voters that he's the original when it comes to progressive policy in the 2020 field, but he's being eclipsed at every turn by the surging Warren. The Vermont senator has proposed massive spending — $16 trillion on climate alone — and so has to show a little revenue to add credibility to his proposals.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 24, 2019