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While the families suffer, UnitedHealth's profits rocket into the stratosphere

What's good for UnitedHealth and CEO Stephen Hemsley is invariably bad for the nation's health care system.

What's good for UnitedHealth and CEO Stephen Hemsley is invariably bad for the nation's health care system.

If you're looking for a reason why health care costs keep rocketing upward, look no further than UnitedHealth. 

The dark knight of America's health care system recently announced its fourth quarter profits for 2016. Its shareholders and corporate overlords are loving life -- $1.9 billion worth of it.

That's not only a 56 percent increase over the same period a year ago. It's more than the gross national product of the central American country of Belize.

It's also further proof when Americans' insurance premiums balloon -- along with higher deductibles to boot -- so do United's profits.

Consider:

Americans spend about $1 trillion annually on private health insurance, according to the federal government.

The Kaiser Family Foundation studied employer-sponsored family plans during an eight-year period. In 2008, the average plan cost almost $13,000, with employees shouldering nearly $3,400 of the bill. By 2016, that same plan had increased to $18,000, with workers footing more than $5,000 of the tab. 

Moreover, between 2010 and 2015, monthly premiums for employer plans rose 24 percent, while deductibles jumped 67 percent. 

Over that same five-year stretch, United's average quarterly gross profit margin was nearly 25 percent. 

The aggregate dollar signs are jaw dropping. 

According to moneywatch.com, United's annual profits from 2012 to 2015 totaled more than $28 billion.