Health insurers looked like rare islands of calm when much of the industry started casting off employees in the recent recession. Now it seems they could only dodge the storm for so long.
In November, the most recent period for which data are available, health insurers shed 1,000 jobs, a 0.2% drop, according to an analysis of U.S. Labor Department data by the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group.
The figures are even grimmer for the year between Nov. 2009 and Nov. 2010. Health insurers cut 15,600 jobs during that period, a 3.5% reduction that brought total employment in the sector to 424,300.
Some companies, citing slow business, have also exited the health insurance business entirely. In October, Principal Financial Group exited the industry, cutting 150 jobs, including VP of sales. Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania also cut jobs around the same time when it announced layoffs due to a slowdown in its health insurance business.
And the bad news may continue, judging from what some insurers are saying. When UnitedHealth Group announced quarterly earnings last fall, an executive reiterated plans to cut $1 billion in costs over five years, including through greater use of automation.