Feb 11, 2019

Health insurance is as big as Big Tech

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Data: Company filings and FactSet; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The 5 largest conglomerates combining health insurance and pharmacy benefits are on track this year to be bigger than the 5 preeminent tech companies.

The big picture: Anthem, Cigna, CVS Health, Humana and UnitedHealth Group cumulatively expect to collect almost $787 billion in 2019, compared with $783 billion of projected revenue for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google.

Yes, but: The tech companies cumulatively were 5 times more profitable than the health care companies in 2018 and are projected to be 3.5 times more profitable this year.

  • There's more money to be made selling smartphones and online ads than acting as a health care middleman.
  • Health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers pay out a vast majority of their revenues to hospitals, doctors and drug companies.
  • But insurers and PBMs are still turning large overall profits. And a delay in an Affordable Care Act tax is expected to create a big windfall for the insurance industry this year. Companies are working behind the scenes to get that tax delayed again for 2020 or permanently repealed.

It's also worth remembering that health insurance giants today do a lot more than just pay out claims for medical care and prescriptions.

  • UnitedHealth owns surgery centers, doctors' offices, consulting shops and data-analyzing services.
  • CVS, which just bought Aetna, brings in a lot of money through its retail pharmacies and in-store clinics.

Go deeper: The consolidation of health insurance and drug benefits is back

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Cigna's big divestiture on its life and disability insurance business

Photo: Julia Rendleman/Getty Images for Eventive Marketing

Cigna finally pulled the trigger on selling its life and disability insurance business, netting $5.3 billion after taxes from New York Life.

The big picture: Health insurers have been divesting products that have less to do with actual medical care and instead combining with companies that sell drug benefits

Go deeperArrowDec 19, 2019

Health care profits dip, but stocks soar

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care industry earnings fell 18% in the third quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 2018, due in part to the costs associated with opioids litigation, according to the Axios tracker of almost 170 health care companies.

Yes, but: The industry still churned out a 6.1% profit margin, and health care stocks are at the highest they've been all year because Wall Street foresees a very profitable election year.

Go deeperArrowDec 17, 2019

Medicare for All's missing mental health discussion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America's mental health care system is in dire need of an overhaul, but the any real specifics are largely missing from the 2020 debate about health care.

Why it matters: Suicide and drug overdose rates continue to rise, and the U.S. faces a shortage of mental health providers and a lack of access to treatment.

Go deeperArrowJan 8, 2020