The nation's Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans continued their wildfire profit and enrollment growth during the first half of 2004. According to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, combined net income for its 41 independent affiliates jumped 32% to $3.7 billion in the six months ended June 30, from $2.7 billion in the year-ago period. (That follows a 53% increase in 2003 earnings to $6.1 billion and a 43% increase in 2002 earnings to $4 billion.) Total revenue for the first half of 2004 rose 10% to $116.3 billion. Profit margins expanded to 3.2% from 2.6% in the first half of 2003.
As of June 30, 2004, the 41 plans held a combined $41.3 billion in reserves, up 48% from $27.9 billion a year earlier. Total enrollment reached 91 million members, up 3% from 88.3 million a year earlier. "The strong growth in Blue-branded business is attributed to continued success in the national accounts market and consumers searching for secure and dependable health benefits amid the storm of rising healthcare costs," association President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Serota said in a news release. -- by Laura B. Benko