A nonprofit mid-Atlantic health carrier is trying to emphasize its commitment to good works.[@@]

CareFirst Inc., Owings Mills, Md., says it will be earmarking $92 million for charitable contributions, efforts to improve the quality of medical care and efforts to hold down rates for all of its 3.2 million health plan members.

CareFirst, the parent of several Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies, has responded to lawmakers’ complaints about its emulation of for-profit competitors by agreeing to contribute $24 million to programs that pay for prescription drugs for poor Maryland residents and provide health coverage for difficult-to-insure individuals in the District of Columbia.

The company will be spending $20 million from now until 2007 on quality-improvement initiatives, and it is cutting its operating earnings target by at least $60 million in 2005. The change in the earnings goal should cut the company’s net operating income margin to 2.2% of premiums and fees this year, from 3.5% in 2004, CareFirst says.

“Our net margins from operations in recent years already have been lower than those of most not-for-profit Blues plans across the nation,” CareFirst President William Jews says in a statement about the changes. “We now are going one step further.”