"In 2009, the largest 14 insurers had profits of roughly $9 billion; that approached 0.4 percent of total health spending of $2.472 trillion. This hardly explains high health costs." -- Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post.
"the five largest health-insurance companies racked up combined profits of $12.2 billion, up 56 percent over 2008" -- Noam N. Levey, The Seattle Times.
Which is right? But then again... who cares? Either value is small compared to the total costs (given by Samuelson, and Wikipedia). So why ostracize and penalize insurers? They're just the middlemen. What am I missing?
My belief is that a lack of cost/value/benefit feedback is the basic problem. There is no pricing-pushback from the consumer, so the prices escalate without control. (you ever see the prices for toothbrush, toothpaste, or slippers in a hospital stay?) We've seen similar problems with higher education where financial aid covered "any" gap between ability to pay, and the amount requested, so the schools simply requested more.
So why all the rhetoric against insurers? Removing all of their profit will reduce overall health care purchasing by less than one percent. It appears they are a scapegoat, to be blamed in lieu of proper analysis and approaches at reducing health care costs.