Mar 11, 2019

Large Blues health insurer pockets $1.7 billion tax refund

Health Care Service Corp. headquarters in Chicago. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Health Care Service Corp. didn't pay a dime in federal taxes in 2018, according to its latest financial report. Instead, the health insurance conglomerate received a $1.7 billion tax refund, which swelled the company's net profit to $4.1 billion.

The big picture: As Axios reported last year, the Blue Cross Blue Shield companies were on track to retain huge sums of money in 2018 due to the Republican tax overhaul and the growing profitability of their health plans. HCSC was among the biggest winners.

By the numbers: HCSC, which is the parent of the Blues plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, tallied a net profit of $4.1 billion on $35.9 billion of revenue in 2018 vs. $1.3 billion net profit on $32.6 billion of revenue in 2017.

  • These numbers don't include the fees self-insured employers pay to HCSC for administrative work.
  • A separate financial filing shows the company's plans in the ACA marketplaces were extremely profitable last year: Just 64% of their premiums were spent on medical care, resulting in almost $2.7 billion in gross profit.
  • David Anderson, a health care researcher at Duke University, recently wrote that ACA plans likely will have to pay rebates back to consumers this year because they've set their premiums too high, which occurred in part to offset the uncertainty from the Trump administration.
  • HCSC said in a statement that it would pay any rebates consistent with federal law and that it "experienced record customer retention" last year.

Go deeper: Blues plans lobbied heavily to get tax reform over the finish line.

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Egg freezing frees women from their biological clocks but isn't foolproof

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A lucrative industry for egg freezing has sprouted in the past 10 years, allowing women to postpone pregnancy. Experts say easy access to the procedure isn't translating into more women using the eggs they put on ice.

The big picture: Nearly 90% of women said they were happy they froze their eggs, regardless of whether they will ultimately get used, according to FertilityIQ, an educational and reviewing site for fertility clinics.

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What we know: Mississippi braces for intense flooding as Pearl River swells

Floodwaters are slowly on the rise in areas around the Pearl River. Photo: City of Jackson/Twitter

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has declared a state of emergency as authorities brace for "historic" floods, with days of rain expected, as the Pearl River continues to swell in and around the state capital, Jackson.

What's happening: Evacuations have already begun, and the river isn't expected to crest until Monday. Reeves described the situation as precarious. "We expect water to stay in the area for 2-3 days, with rain throughout the week," he tweeted.

Assault weapons ban dies in Virginia Senate despite Democratic control

Gun-rights ralliers at a protest outside the Virginia Capitol Building in January. Photo ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images.

An assault weapons ban died in the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday despite a Democratic majority in the assembly, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Democrats flipped the Virginia House and Senate last year after campaigning hard on gun control. The assault weapons bill would have banned future transfers and sales of all assault weapons in the state.